Student Leaders Brainstorm Ideas for an Accessible Future

Design for America of NYU takes part in National Leadership Conference

DFA conference

Students from NYU Tandon and Gallatin participated in the Design for America (DFA) national leadership conference. From left: Tuba Naziruddin, Kathleen Chao, Michael Niamehr, and Emma Hoffman.

At the recent Design for America (DFA) Leadership Studio, 106 students from DFA university chapters across the U.S. — including four student leaders from the DFA NYU studio — converged to brainstorm ideas and develop design solutions to expanding accessibility within urban areas.

Held at Northwestern University in August, the annual conference invites DFA student leaders to work together towards growing and improving their design studios and increasing the impact of their projects. Students participated in panels, discussions, and workshops with innovators and experts in designing for social impact. This year featured a two-day design ‘sprint’ where teams of DFA students, mentors, and local community members partnered on rapid prototyping projects centered around accessibility.

“Accessible design has been a theme at our DFA NYU studio, with our continuing project NYU Freedge aimed at making food accessible to the community, and our project I Am Your Protector, which centers on inclusiveness and empowerment around minorities and refugees,” explained Tuba Naziruddin, DFA NYU leader and Management of Technology student.

With past projects, including improved mobility devices for the elderly living in NYC, to redesigned and easily navigable signage in the New York State Courts, DFA NYU impacts both local and global communities through multidisciplinary, human-centered design.

Niamehr, Hoffman, and Naziruddin brainstormed how to expand accessibility in urban areas.

Niamehr, Hoffman, and Naziruddin brainstormed how to expand accessibility in urban areas.

“During the Leadership Studio, we recognized that all DFA studios share the same passion for social innovation and design, and how this common thread can bring so many like-minded people together to work towards a common cause,” said Kathleen Chao, a graduate student in Integrated Digital Media and DFA NYU leader. Naziruddin, Chao, and their fellow DFA NYU leaders Michael Niamehr, an electrical engineering undergraduate, and Emma Hoffman, an undergraduate student at NYU Gallatin, were recognized by the DFA national organization for the DFA NYU studio’s inclusive culture, where graduate and undergraduate students collaborate seamlessly.

“At the Leadership Studio, the student leaders realize they’re all facing similar challenges and hurdles when managing the studio, and this awareness helps them feel more confident in solving issues,” shared Anne-Laure Fayard, faculty advisor and associate professor in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation. “They have the opportunity to hone their design-thinking skills and learn new tools, and it also gives them a sense of belonging to a larger community.”

Visit to learn more about the studio, its upcoming projects, and how to join the team.

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018