First-Year Guidebook

Timeline: 2 Weeks

SKILLS: User Research, Interviewing, Empathizing, Needfinding, Ideating, Prototyping, Testing, Interating, Presenting

For a project in my Design Thinking class, each group was given an aspect of the school to improve. My team was assigned the topic of improving "Dartmouth Traditions", a key aspect of our school's identity. We first interviewed 30 individuals asking them to talk through their Dartmouth experiences and the role traditions have played in them. From our discussions, we found the following insights:

Key Quotes and Insights

"Freshman year i seriously considered transferring because I never found a community"

Insight: First-years often struggle to find community, which affects their happiness and sense of belonging at Dartmouth.

"It's so nice to be given the chance to explicitly think about my experiences becuase it's not immediately obvious what was actually meaningful" (in addition, interviews lasted an average of 25 minutes each even though the individuals initially said they were available for 5-10 minutes)

Insight: People truly want to slow down and reflect on their Dartmouth experiences, but do not take the time to do so

"It's easy to feel very clueless, especially with all the lingo and obscure traditions. At first you feel so out of it like it's a new language to learn"

Insight: Dartmouth traditions are so central to its identity that it creates a barrier that leaves first-years feeling isolated until they uncover the "cultural key"

"The smaller things that aren't the 'big weekends' like hiking Gile, chilling at Mink Brook, going to the rope swing, all of those little activities make up the Dartmouth experience"

Insight: It's the small undercover experiences that create Dartmouth's unique culture

User Map

From our interviews, we also generated some maps that furthered our insights into students' needs regarding traditions.

In this map, each color represents the journey of an individual. From here, we found that freshmen who found community their first year found it through student clubs and athletic teams. Mentorship also helped a particular student thrive freshman year, but in general, first-years did not feel a sense of belonging.

The Need

Ultimately, we structured our point of view around a first-year student struggling to navigate the Dartmouth community

Brainstorming a Solution

We decided that a successful solution would help freshmen navigate their first year thoughtfully through direction, encourage meaningful interactions and mindfulness through reflection, sustain the energy and impact of events through extension, and ultimately build community through connection.

After prototyping and testing various solutions, such as video competitions during Big Weekend traditions, class time capsules, and orientation program improvements, we finally found a solution that addressed all our specifications.

Innovation: First-Year Guidebook

We propose the First-Year Guidebook to help freshmen navigate and connect with people. It would include prompts, and you could submit these stories and memories through the Online Portal, where they would be collected and assembled into an Alumni Booklet that would be given back to you during reunions. Below is a demonstration of what the experience would look like:

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