NYU Mentorship Programme
This is a Design For America NYU project facilitated by IBM iX Mentors
As a participant of the Design Sprint project hosted by DFA and facilitated by the IBM iX mentors, our task as a team is to come up with a solution to integrate the growing tech scene in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle with the local communities. Even though NYU is playing a key role in the process of transforming Brooklyn, the resulting gentrification is pushing out many original residents who can no longer afford the increased rent and cost of living. We are going to propose solutions for the following questions:
How might we make NYU Brooklyn the centre of connection between students and the larger Metrotech area?
How might we make NYU Brooklyn a vibrant community that is integrated within the local community?
To answer these questions, we are going to first identify and create a persona through empathy mapping, create need statements through scenario mapping to stay focused, ideate, build to-be scenario mapping, and finally create storyboards and prototypes.
The above design prompt was provided by Design For America | NYU Design Lab
I was a part of a team of 5 students from the Engineering school with Computer Science, Integrated Digital Media, and Electrical Engineering background. We all contribute and worked closely as a team in this project to come up with solutions.
Framing the Problem
We first got into groups and each team came up with a persona. My team thought that one of the key participants of this integration should be from the NYU community. We decided to give our person the name of Miguel, who’s 22 years old, a recent engineering school grad who interns part-time at a small tech startup in the Metrotech area. Each of the 5 team members then started writing down attributes and assumptions on sticky notes while discussing with each other.
Once we had all the ideas down, we started grouping the sticky notes based on what Miguel says, does, thinks, and feels to create an empathy map. It was now clear that Miguel is a tough-looking animal-loving Hispanic vegan who lives in New Jersey, trying to balance his life between internship, family chores, his own side project of creating an app, and volunteering at the zoo.
From there we used the same sticky notes and organized them based on similarity to figure out what are the areas that concerns Miguel the most. We discovered that his app, well-being, relationships, job, and commute are the top things that occupied his mind.
Scenario Mapping & Needs Statement
Before moving on, all groups actually got broken up and remixed to form new and finalized groups so that each member can share different personas before we proceed. After discussing as a new group, we decided to go with the persona called Jordan.
Jordan is a 45 year-old single mom living near Park Slope area in Brooklyn and she has two daughters. She’s a business analyst at a Brooklyn based tech firm. One of her daughters is going to college soon so she’s concerned about not being able to afford the tuition and how to get her daughter into a good school. She wants her daughter to have the right connections to get into a good school and be successful. Jordan lives in Brooklyn all her life so she saw how the area has transformed. Now she’s thinking about getting in touch with the new tech scene to help her with financial issues and her daughter’s education.
Now that we have identified some of her motives, we started our scenario mapping by writing down things that Jordan does, thinks, and feels in chronological order. For example, Jordan might be considering switching jobs, so she’ll do some research, feels insecure about the big change, and doubting if it’s the right decision.
Once all the team members contributes and put their stickies on the board, we started grouping notes that are similar together in chronological order. We then came up with 4 stages of Jordan’s process: motivations, research, engaging, and taking actions. We then look into the different stages more closely and cluster notes that are more related to each other.
After identifying our 3 main clusters (money and job concerns, kid’s education, and engagement in tech), we then brainstormed and created a needs statements for each of the pain points using the sentence: Jordan needs a way to _______ so that _________.
We try to keep our needs statements broad and not specific/implying solutions, and we came up with these:
Jordan needs a way to develop new skills so that she can advance in her career/field.
Jordan needs a way to develop identify opportunities so that her kids will be successful/have a bright future.
Jordan needs a way to find affordable access to classes/training so that she can take advantage of new opportunities.
We organized her pain points and goals as following:
Unaware of tools and resources available to her
Heavy fiscal responsibility as a single parent with a daughter approaching college
Feels that her job lacks growth potential
Needs to expand her skill set in order to compete in the current climate
Increase her awareness of networking opportunities in the MetroTech area
Grow her knowledge base
Keep personal education costs low in order to focus on impending college dues
Pivot in her career
With Jordan’s pain points and goals in mind, the team proceeded to ideate solutions. We tried not to worry too much about whether these solutions are feasible or reasonable or not and focused on writing anything down that came across our minds. I personally even tried to come up with random ideas that most likely won’t get approved (such as having NYU holding random events at grocery stores or develop a scavenger hunt app that allows users to collect prizes once puzzles are solved).
We wrote down our ideas on post-it notes, put them on a piece of paper, each member briefly explained his/her ideas, and then we organized similar ones into clusters and name each cluster to categorize the ideas. We came up with “Integrating with Brooklyn Community“, “Classes“, and “Local Schools“. We originally had another category called “Student Encouragement“ but later took it out because we realized that it was based on OUR need as NYU students instead of Jordan’s.
Once we had the clusters, each member examined individual ideas and voted them based on impact and feasibility using stickers (red sticker for high impact, yellow for high feasibility). We then took the sticky notes with the most dots and placed them on another piece of paper with the prioritization chart (impact on x axis and feasibility on the y axis). After some discussion and moving the sticky notes around, we finalized our decision on ideas in each of the “No Brainer“, “Big Bets“, “Utilities”, and “Save for Later“ category.
The idea that stood out in the No Brainer section is the one that matches NYU students as mentors with local high school students to help them navigate the college application process, figure out what they want to do, and assist them to achieve these goals.
We thought this idea is a great one to get started with because it does not only integrate NYU community with the local community better, it also has a huge impact on the next generation of students with clearer directions and therefore have a more positive long-term effect on the Brooklyn area transformation.
To-be Scenario Mapping
We understand that our proposed solution might be more directly beneficial to Jordan’s son instead of her, but we do believe there are ways that Jordan can participate in this process and help her along the way.
We used scenario mapping to brainstorm how Jordan feels seeing her son being a part of this programme, and what are some of the actions that she takes as a participant and observer. We then group together similar ideas, separate these groups into different categories, and put them in chronicle order. After this step, we put a timeline to the chronicle order and name each category. Since this is a mentoring partnership that’ll most likely be a long-term project, therefore we use “year“ as our time unit for project phase.
To better illustrate how our programme will be impactful, each team member create a storyboard on how Jordan’s life will be with the involvement of this mentorship programme. I focused mine on how Jordan can support her son as she sees his personal and professional growth in a longer timeline (from his high school to having kids):
Other teammates focus on different aspects of how Jordan’s life will be affected such as her focus on personal development. We then combine different parts of our storyboards together to create a more complete look on Jordan.
Here’s our final storyboard:
Jordan’s son is applying to college, but she feels like she can’t give him the most suitable advices as she’s not familiar with the current application process. Her son comes back one day telling her that NYU came to his school to tell them about this mentorship programme that matches NYU students with participating students to help guide them through application process and general future planning. Jordan thinks that this is a great programme to be on and forces her son to participate (and has some slight conflicts with him because he initially doesn’t want to).
But as time goes, her son starts to bond with his mentor over homework helps and building trust. Jordan starts to see the changes in her son’s academic performances and is really happy that there’s someone that can help her son. She also has more things to talk about with her sons, asking everything is going and offers her support. Seeing her son getting help from a mentor also gets her thinking whether there are similar mentoring programmes for her to advance in her career.
She seeks out help and finds a person at her company who’s more senior than she is and willing to help her out and give her professional advice. After being more active about her career advancement, she gets promoted! She sees how this programme not only helps her sons but also herself, she becomes an advocate and starts telling other parents about this NYU programme and encourages these parents to participate. At the same time, Jordan’s son becomes a mentor after becoming a NYU student himself because he experiences how this programme helps him and wants to give back.
Years later, Jordan’s son graduates from NYU, secures a good job, falls in love and gets married. Jordan is really grateful that she has a intimate relationship with her sons and seeing her son being content with their lives is the happiest thing for her.
Bringing This Idea to Life
Working with mentors at Design For America NYU, we have the chance of connecting with NYU’s K-12 STEM Center and Student Affair to see if this project can fit under the Poly Project NYU or if there’s a student organization that might be interested in bringing this idea to life. I’m really grateful that I have the chance to participate in this project, and will continue to work on the possibility of actually starting this mentorship programme.