Understanding Student Perspectives

The pilot of the Shadow a Student Higher Ed Challenge will take place April 20-27, 2017.

Credit Patrick Beaudouin

In the University Innovation Fellows program, empathy is a big part of our daily practice. One of our core values is the emphasis on learning and understanding the experiences, challenges and joys of others so we can solve our world’s problems. Gaining empathy is essential for us as we work with Fellows and faculty colleagues to create change in higher education.

Last year, we learned about the Shadow a Student Challenge, run by School Retool, another d.school program. We were inspired by this broad-reaching exercise in empathy that asked K-12 teachers, principals and administrators to shadow a student at their school for one day. The challenge is simple but impactful.

As educators, it’s important to continuously connect with the students at our schools. This is how we can adapt our classes, culture and spaces to better fit their needs. There’s no better way to practice empathy than by putting ourselves literally in the shoes of our students. More than 2,500 educators have done just that over the last two years as part of the K-12 challenge (check out their insights on Twitter at #shadowastudent).

We wondered, with all this enthusiasm for the K-12 challenge, what this challenge would look like in higher education. What would college and university leaders learn from spending a day in the life of a student at their institution?

Well, we’re going to find out together. We’re excited to announce the Shadow a Student Higher Ed Challenge, a small higher education pilot of the K-12 challenge in collaboration with the School Retool program. In true d.school form, we’re testing out this idea to see what works, what doesn’t, and what our shadowers learn from their experiences.

For this pilot, we’re working with teams of administrators, faculty and staff from several institutions: Boise State University, Clemson University, Stanford University, Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología in Peru, University of Maryland, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

From April 20 (National High Five Day!) through April 27, we’re challenging leaders at these schools to pick a day, shadow one of their students for the day, and share their insights on Twitter at #shadowacollegestudent. We invite you to follow along, ask questions and share what this community is learning.

Read more about the challenge at universityinnovationfellows.org/shadow-student-higher-ed-challenge.

1 reply
  1. Frida Gråsjö
    Frida Gråsjö says:

    We did a similar project in Karlstad university, sweden, a few years ago- follow a student. The project led us to a lot of changes and new ideas that we have continued to work with. It will be great to folllow shadow a college student this coming week!


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