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What’s The Best Class at Stanford? (Hint: It’s not in the CS Department)

The best class that I took at Stanford was CEE45Q Affordable Housing. It was technically a Civil Engineering class about housing, which I didn’t really have an interest in, but what was amazing about it is our professor helped us go through the Design Thinking process, which you can apply to any problem.

To give you an idea of how the design process works, here’s a video that we watched in class that shows how the famous design firm IDEO, uses the process to design a new shopping cart.

We started with the challenge of affordable housing in the Bay Area and through research, interviews and observations of real people, my class of 10 students designed a venture to help low-income workers climb the career ladder. It was the first time that I had ever been challenged as a student to take a real world problem and try to solve it.

If you want to educate students to be problem solvers, you have to give them problems to solve.

While the organization fizzled out as my classmates and I overstretched ourselves with other commitments, we learned an invaluable process that I’ve applied at almost every job that I’ve had, in fields as diverse as technology, nonprofits, and media.

Apparently now the most popular class at Stanford is called Designing Your Life. It takes the same design principles and helps students apply to plan their careers.