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Improving the Lives of Others

Developing a sense of belonging at NEIA starts with our faculty and establishing our school culture. We gathered as a team twice this spring to set our cultural charter, identify our work, and lay the foundation for the school’s future.

Culture at NEIA

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The world’s needs are too pressing – and the world is changing too quickly – for us not to develop passion in students from a young age. NEIA’s culture is evident, a community dedicated to improving the lives of others.

Establishing a Cultural Charter 

During our first meeting in April, Ayla Gavins, curriculum coordinator and instructional coach, began our day with a land acknowledgment to acknowledge the community of people who came before us. Together, we created a sense of belonging and laid the groundwork for the community NEIA will become.

We took a moment to reflect on our cultural charter. The team shared feedback, and we refined our message. We recognized the unique opportunity we have to create a culture and community with a distinct purpose to improve the lives of others. The NEIA cultural charter is: We love, support, and inspire our entire community of innovators as we imagine and iterate a transformative school experience that sparks joy and wonder.

The NEIA team is experienced, insightful, and creative. Together, we explored a range of topics:

  • What kind of space are we creating for our innovators?
  • How do we create a learning space that embraces us all and provides us with the freedom to be who we are and become better?
  • How can we be intentional about the methods, materials, and images we use?

There was a real sense of togetherness and the excitement that comes with fresh perspectives and sharing new ideas. We closed our day with a celebratory gathering at the 110 Grill.

Building Community Through Human-Centered Design

Expanding on our work, we held a second gathering focused exclusively on human-centered design. Matt Kressy, Founding Director of MIT Integrated Design & Management (MITidm) and trustee at NEIA, was our instructor and guide for the day. He provided us with a lecture and a project-based experience to deepen our understanding of the human-centered design process.

As Matt explained, products and services offer an experience. To create the best experience, we must first understand the customer. Human-centered design is a process to learn about the customer’s needs with empathy and compassion. We can create meaningful experiences by following the human-centered design process of explore, express, create, test, and then implement.

We broke into groups and participated in an HCD workshop to reimagine an everyday product — the wallet. We interviewed each other, connected through story-telling, and working together, we found ways to improve our products. We ended the day energized with the words explore, express, and create dancing in our heads.

Our shared experience created a sense of belonging and prepared us to bring the HCD ethos to our school and our community.

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Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
Maya Angelou

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