High school students from around the Richmond region collaborated with area organizations and implemented design thinking strategies to develop strategic solutions for those partners during the 43rd Annual, and the first virtual, Cochrane Summer Economic Institute (CSEI).
Twenty-six high school students from around the Richmond region completed the 43rd Annual, and the first virtual, Cochrane Summer Economic Institute (CSEI), a community outreach program partially funded by the Powell Economic Education Foundation and administered by Collegiate School’s Powell Institute For Responsible Citizenship.
Students accepted into the program hail from a variety of schools: Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, Clover Hill High School, Collegiate School, J.R. Tucker High School, Meadowbrook High School, Mills E. Godwin High School, St. Catherine’s School, St. Christopher’s School, St. Gertrude High School and The Steward School.
Over the course of the four-week virtual program, students were paired into teams and partnered with local organizations including Richmond Flying Squirrels, Midas of Richmond, Dominion Energy and Impact Makers. Teams collaborated using the design thinking process of inspiration, ideation and interpretation
to design or redesign a strategy, communication or other business function for a specific user group for their partner organizations.
"We were very clear with the students from the outset,” said Trina Clemans, director of the Cochrane Summer Economic Institute. “CSEI 2020 was going to be new territory for all of us. We were going to learn together; fail together and solve problems together. And that is, in fact, what we did. The bonus was what we were afraid would elude us the most— building community and friendships virtually and in the midst of uncertainty— happened organically because we were all willing to try an experience we couldn't fully predict or control."
“We were able to work together, create innovative ideas and thoughtful feedback during the design thinking process,” said Natalie Wolpert (Saint Gertrude High School).
Virtual CSEI was new territory for everyone.
“I was impressed with the experience of working with and seeing the results from our team as they dealt with the challenges of collaborating in a virtual environment,” said Ben Terry, Executive Director of Corporate Partnerships for the Richmond Squirrels, design team sponsor and mentor. “In the workplace, this has been a struggle for professionals around the world, and to see these young adults perform and work together on a project like this was wonderful to be a part of this summer.”
“The experience taught me about research, entrepreneurship, economics, and how to host an interview, how to rewrite questions, and much more,” said Henry Mountcastle (Collegiate School).
Students demonstrated adaptability and attention to detail as they learned on the job.
“Over the course of the last few weeks, one thing that I noticed was that they very much were active listeners,” said Terry. “This is an art form that can be crucial to success in both scholastic and professional environments; they asked questions, and most definitely listened to responses by myself and the other interviewees. From there, this active listening turned into proactive work effort, which had a clear impact on the final product.”
“My team navigated ambiguity and organized our thoughts by researching, implementing, and iterating our solution,” said Nicole Chang (Clover Hill High School).
Scholarships supported by a generous donation from the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG)- Richmond chapter with additional support from Mark Smith, owner of Midas of Richmond were awarded at the conclusion of CSEI. CSEI design thinking teams voted to select the team peer who exhibited the traits of exceptional collaborative leadership and a great interest in a career in business.
The $500 Scholarship Award will be awarded to the recipients in May 2021. Winners include Team Dominion Energy’s Susanna Shepard (Mills E. Godwin High School), Team Impact Makers’ Hailey Wharram (The Steward School), Team Midas Of Richmond’s Jumana Meri (Appomattox Regional Governor’s School) and Natalie Wolpert (St. Gertrude High School) and Team Richmond Squirrels’ Michael Frank (The Steward School).
"Taking CSEI 2020 virtually forced us to create a new experience out of what was, and imagine what could be. We had never invited guests from around the United States into our CSEI classroom, and Zoom enabled us to do just that,” said Clemans. “In addition to our Richmond-based guests Richard Wintsch, Executive Director of Startup Virginia, Rasheeda Creighton, Founder of The 3Fifty Group, and John Dau, Collegiate's Global Scholar-in-Residence and Founder of the John Dau Foundation, we had the pleasure of hosting Victor Saad, founder of the Experience Institute in Chicago, as well as Mike Pierantozzi, Group Creative Director at VaynerMedia in New York, and the students were able to interview individuals for their design challenges who, in years past, would have been considered inaccessible.”
—Aynsley Miller Fisher ‘93