VSA Teaches Leadership Course at NYU Stern

For the third consecutive year, a group of VSAers are guest lecturing the Cohort Leadership Program (CLP) at NYU’s Stern School of Business. The course, which is required for all incoming freshman students at Stern, takes place throughout the semester and focuses on business leadership through the lens of design thinking.  

As more of the world’s businesses begin to adopt design thinking principles, NYU’s Stern School of Business, which is ranked #5 nationally by U.S. News & World Reports, has recognized a need to prepare future business leaders for the new realities of the changing workforce. The CLP aims to educate students on how design thinking methodologies can solve for business challenges by responding to real human needs.

In a series of classes that align to the design thinking process, students are challenged to create a business, product or solution that improves food sustainability, specifically at the point of consumption or post-consumption. After the students collected observations about food sustainability throughout New York City, VSA taught them how to translate their observations into insights. The objective: To reveal the underlying motivations behind people’s beliefs and behaviors about food sustainability in order to inspire innovative solutions.

“It’s more important now than ever before for students to learn design thinking early in their careers,” explains Nina Pesavento, Associate Director of Designing Change at VSA, who is helping to spearhead this year’s course. “Some of the students come in having learned design thinking as a problem solving method in high school. But having the ability to apply it within a business setting is becoming critical. As industries converge and customers expectations continue to rise, the only way for businesses to stand out is to create new value. That requires recognizing people’s challenges and unmet needs, developing a fresh perspective and responding in a new or better way. In essence, that’s design thinking.”

Alongside Nina, the classes were led by Eric Rolfsen, Director, Technology and Product Management; Henry Furman, Senior Strategist, Designing Change; Josh Berta, Associate Creative Director; and Sarah Daily, Creative Director, Writing.

Since VSA’s inception 35 years ago, design thinking has been a core belief and has served as the foundation for its transformation from a design firm to a fully-integrated agency. From introducing foreign brands to a new audience, to reinvigorating legacy brands, the methodology has served some of VSA’s most successful clients in their pursuits.