The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Recap: "Designing Your Life"

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Class of 2020 Rockefeller Leadership Fellows gather during the Fall 2019 retreat. 

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After two packed days, Eugene Korsunskiy’s session “Designing Your Life,” wrapped up the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows Fall Retreat. 

Eugene Korsunskiy is currently a professor of Design Thinking here at Dartmouth College, where he teaches ENGS 12 (Design Thinking) and the Senior Design Challenge, a two-term course. Before Dartmouth, he was the Senior Coordinator of Design Initiatives at the University of Vermont, where he taught similar classes, including “Design Thinking” and “Design Your Life.” Throughout his career, he has been a speaker at several TEDx events and the Aspen Ideas Festival and has received a Fast Company Innovation by Design Award. He graduated from Williams College with a BA in Art & Art History and from Stanford University, where he received a MFA in Design.

In this interactive, hands-on workshop, Fellows were led through three main activities to learn how to apply design thinking principles into everyday life. 

The first activity, a rock-paper-scissors war, helped Fellows loosen up and became more comfortable with one another. In the second activity, 30 circles, Fellows were given a sheet of paper with 30 empty circles and were instructed to draw something in a limited amount of time. Main takeaways from this activity were that we often create unnecessary and harder rules for ourselves, that end up affecting performance. Korsunskiy emphasized the role schemas play in our everyday lives and how we start to feel stuck when we have exhausted all the possible ideas in one ‘schema.’ With this in mind, he encouraged us to become more aware and pay attention to when we hit roadblocks so we can catalogue techniques that do and do not work for getting unstuck. 

In the third activity, 3x3, fellows were instructed to draw three different versions of the next three years of their lives. By this point we were more aware of how and what we were thinking about how to be more creative. The takeaway from this activity was that we have many possible futures, whether we realize it or not. 

This last activity combined the main ideas and principles we learned throughout this session and throughout the entire weekend. As a group of seniors, a topic that kept coming up during the retreat was our futures. Common questions we kept asking ourselves were: What are we going to be doing in a year from now? What do we want to be doing versus what do we think we should be doing? This activity helped us gain clarity that there are many possible futures, and not just one defined path. A point that really stuck with me was when Korsunskiy said something along the lines of, “we tell ourselves the future is certain enough that we know what we will be doing in the future - one year, 5 years, 10 years from now. But this is not that case!” 

Overall, Korsunskiy’s excitement for the future, passion for thinking outside the box, and ability to be okay with not knowing every next step, rubbed off on us all. Keeping these ideas in mind, they will help us become better leaders and people moving into our senior year at Dartmouth. 

-Written by Peninah Benjamin, Class of 2020 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, dinner discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

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