Design Thinking for Rural Innovation

As a first step in establishing the Rural Innovation Institute, the Center for Integrative Learning is offering a series of  professional development opportunities for faculty, staff and community members to obtain a certificate in Design Thinking for Rural Innovation. The training will equip participants to design and deliver innovative teaching and learning programs that address our region’s rural development needs.

What is Design Thinking? 

Design thinking, or Human Centered Design, is a process for creative problem solving used by various sectors that puts people at the center of the design process. While design thinking is often associated with tech and engineering, it is increasingly used in a variety of industries including business, government, education, and nonprofit to drive innovation or organizational change. No matter your role or industry, design thinking can help you or your organization develop innovative solutions based on the needs of your customers and the people you serve.

Summer Design Thinking Training Series

Faculty, staff and community partners will have three options for design thinking training:

Design Thinking Fundamentals Certificate

Dates: Wednesday - Friday, June 2-4, 2021 | 9:30 am - 3:30 pm | In-person
Location: SUNY Geneseo
Facilitator: Dr. C. Sara L. Minard, Ph.D.

Training Overview

In this three-day, intensive workshop, participants will be introduced to design thinking through participation in a real-world, rural design challenge addressing an issue of regional importance. Over the course of three days participants will experience the full design process, while having the opportunity to prototype a solution to be implemented within their own academic department, organization or enterprise.

Who is this workshop for?

  • SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff
  • Professionals in the non-profit and government sectors
  • Entrepreneurs and business owners
  • K-12 Educators
  • Municipal Leaders

What will participants get? 

  • A practical understanding of design thinking: what really matters to your users through observation and empathy, ideation methods to generate new and useful ideas, and knowledge of the right parts of an idea to prototype and test.
  • Creative confidence to see with the eyes of a designer.
  • Ability to refine ideas by sharing them, gather feedback and synthesize what you learn into actionable insights.
  • Participants that finish the full three days will receive a certificate of completion


The cost for this three-day workshop is $350 for non-SUNY Geneseo employees. Scholarships are available to individuals or organizations. Please contact Nicole Manapol at or (585) 237-8079 for more information.

Practicum in Design Thinking for Rural Innovation

Dates: Wednesday - Friday, August 18-20, 2021 | 9:30 am - 3:30 pm | In-person
Location: SUNY Geneseo
Facilitator: Dr. C. Sara L. Minard, Ph.D.

Practicum Overview

The new Rural Innovation Institute at the Center for Integrative Learning at SUNY Geneseo seeks to foster a culture of creativity and collaboration between the college and the community to address regional challenges, and promote dynamic and vibrant rural communities in western New York and beyond.

The purpose of this practicum is to bring together SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff from different departments and schools to develop cross-disciplinary competences in design thinking, particularly as it applies to higher education, rural innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The three-day practicum will build upon the Fundamentals in Design Thinking Workshop to prepare university faculty and staff to respond to the opportunities and challenges in higher education using interactive design methods and reflection. Participants will leave feeling confident to try new ways of teaching and learning in their courses and programs and to convey their design thinking knowledge to others in an effective way.

The opportunity to master the basics of design thinking approaches and learn how to incorporate these practical and creative methods and tools for problem solving into classrooms and beyond will be beneficial for faculty and staff who want to prepare students for the complex challenges facing our region and our world. 

Who is this practicum for?

  • SUNY Geneseo faculty and staff
  • Community practitioners interested in teaching design thinking through the Rural Innovation Institute

What will participants get?

  • Capacity to teach the design thinking approach to students and colleagues, with practical applications to rural innovation and Higher Education
  • A cross-disciplinary set of tools that utilizes stakeholder perspectives, systems thinking, and asset-based approaches to problem solving
  • Creative confidence for how specific knowledge and experiences from Higher Education can be leveraged using design thinking to enhance teaching and learning, including identifying potential blind spots (bias) and untapped opportunities for academic and co-curricular innovation
  • Skills on giving and receiving feedback on prototyping, testing and evaluating design ideas
  • Coaching sessions where teams will map out the idea as a business model and identify potential financing: grants, revenue generation, cooperative funding mechanisms

*Requirements: participants must have taken the Design Thinking Fundamentals training to participate in the Practicum. 

Community of Design Practice


  • Monday, August 23, 2021 | 9:30 am - 2 pm | Building a Community of Design Practice | In-person
  • September - December 2021

Location: SUNY Geneseo
Facilitator: Dr. C. Sara L. Minard, Ph.D.

Building a Community of Design Practice 

Following the summer workshops faculty and staff will have the opportunity to join a select cohort of their colleagues to continue deepening their knowledge and practice of design thinking over the Fall semester. Activities will include:

  • A visioning day following the summer workshops to begin working on the Rural Innovation Institute's long-term collaborative vision and to establish the design cohort (Monday, August 23, 2021)
  • Individual and group coaching sessions with design thinking facilitator, Dr. Sara Minard, to support faculty and staff interested in integrating design thinking into their courses or leading design thinking workshops through the Rural Innovation Institute.
  • Online and in-person gatherings to share ideas, experiences, pose questions, and learn new design tools.
  • A monthly speakers series highlighting rural innovation solutions from the local region, U.S. and around the world. 

How to Apply

Interested faculty, staff and community members should complete this online application by April 30, 2021. For any questions please contact Nicole Manapol at  or (585) 237-8079.

Design Thinking Facilitator and Coach

Dr. Sara L. Minard is the Founder and CEO of Manarine, LLC, an international consulting firm working at the intersection of impact investing, design thinking, economics, faith, social justice, and sustainable development. As a trained socio-economist, educator, facilitator, policy advisor, and development practitioner, Sara has worked with universities, multinational companies, social impact startups, impact funds, governments, and communities across the globe.

Dr. Minard earned a Ph.D. in Economics (highest honors) from Sciences Po, Paris under the supervision of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen on the topic of social entrepreneurship in the informal economy in Senegal, West Africa. She has extensive experience within higher education including teaching an award-winning course (Aspen Institute) on impact investing and social finance at Babson College; serving as Executive Professor at Northeastern University’s D'Amore-McKim School of Business; and teaching and researching for five years at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as Lecturer-in-Discipline where she designed Columbia's first course on social entrepreneurship for sustainable development. Read Sara's full bio here.

Dr. C. Sara L. MinardDr. Sara L. Minard 

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