Facilitator Spotlight: Kelley Dugan

Kelley Dugan, Graduate Facilitator at C-SED and PhD Candidate, recently sat down with storyteller Sydney Moore to answer some questions about her role at C-SED and what she’s looking forward to this year.

Story by Sydney Moore

How did you first become involved with C-SED?

C-SED was one of the main reasons why I was drawn to U of M for graduate school. When I started looking at schools, I was working as an engineer in product development. I found myself frustrated that most of the things I had struggled to do, or even consider, as an undergrad engineer (working across disciplines, thinking deeply about stakeholders and user contexts, and exploring solutions before committing to one) were the same things I saw engineers struggling with in the industry. I felt that there had to be a better way to design, so I started googling the research of various mechanical engineering professors. That’s how I found C-SED, which led me to Dr. Shanna Daly, a C-SED co-founder who is now my PhD advisor.


Describe your current role at C-SED.

As a graduate facilitator, my main role is facilitating workshops around a variety of topics that connect back to the Socially Engaged Design Process Model. These workshops can include a variety of topics and experiences. For example, an overview of the SED Process Model, a quick design process experience, a practice round of stakeholder mapping, or a reflective case study on how identity, power, and privilege show up and are integral to design.


What drew you to this role?

At the time that I applied, two of my lab members, Ilka Rodriguez-Calero and Robert Loweth, and another mechanical engineering design graduate student, Suzanne Chou, were working as facilitators. Talking with them about their experiences, particularly how it had shaped their understanding of design, really drew me to the role. In addition, it was an opportunity to interact directly with students, improve my facilitation skills, and build a deeper understanding of socially engaged design.


How has being a C-SED facilitator added value to your educational experience?

Since starting, I’ve co-facilitated 36 workshops in 20 different curricular and co-curricular settings, via Zoom and in-person. The position has provided incredible exposure to curating workshop content, teaching me my facilitation style and how to blend it with others. In addition, I recently started conducting research on the Socially Engaged Design Process Model. My experience and familiarity with the SED Process Model as a facilitator enabled me to dive right in to this project. I’m excited to be in a position where I can be a researcher (as a PhD student) and help implement changes based on the research (as a facilitator).


How has your career path developed over time?

I first considered engineering in high school when my parents encouraged me to participate in a WYSE summer camp at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The camp was a mini overview of a variety of engineering disciplines. I left in awe of plasma and was convinced I was going to become a nuclear engineer. Thanks to supportive high school teachers, access to resources (e.g., manual drafting, CAD, engineering design, AP physics, and AP calc courses), and Project SYNCERE Saturday programming, I was able to envision both a future where I was engineer and a path to that future.

As an undergrad at Ohio State, I majored in mechanical engineering and tried to take every design-related course possible. I thought about pursuing a career in academia, but I did not have a clear idea of what I would want to research. In addition, professors with industry experience had the most engaging examples in class, so I decided to try working in product development. I’m really glad I made that decision because it helped me narrow the scope of where I want to focus on creating change.


Any advice for those considering your role or a similar one?

Do consider what your “design experience” is broadly. C-SED values having diverse perspectives across the team. Team members’ experiences (whether that is practical, research-based, etc.) when it comes to design approaches allows us to share information and challenge our understanding of design.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or sit in on workshops and other projects before you begin your own work with C-SED. The C-SED team understands that there’s a lot for new facilitators to learn. You’ll have time (especially during the first few months) to observe, participate in planning meetings, and co-facilitate with a more experienced member of the team before leading facilitation.


What do you like most about working at C-SED? 

The work environment feels like a community. We have a nice mix of people with different disciplinary backgrounds and experiences. Having these perspectives leads to challenging and deep discussions about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we want to go about doing it. There’s a lot of intention and reflection that goes into creating a space where people can share ideas and feel supported; supported enough to stretch and grow as we each continue to build new skills.


What is one project you really enjoyed working on?

C-SED has always been supportive of facilitators creating working groups around topics that they’re passionate about. Personally, I’m interested in doing sustainable design research in the future because I think we are living in a very critical time. What we do (or don’t do) in the next 5 to 10 years (as engineers, as designers, as a global community) will have a significant impact on the world. That said, I think my favorite project has been working with a small group of facilitators (Carlotta, Marianna, & Robert), alongside Charlie (Director of Experiential Learning) and Steven (C-SED Co-founder), on what “sustainability” means at C-SED and how we want to incorporate that into content and the SED Process Model itself.


What can students come to talk to you about?

I love having big picture conversations about what a problem might be, who might be impacted by or have an influence on the problem, and what working on that problem means in the context of current government policy, cultural norms, and the environment. In addition, I enjoy working with students who want to build reflexive design skills and are seeking to strengthen partnerships with their stakeholders.   


Any design tools recommendations?

Continuous reflection and adjustment of your design approach is key to building your skills as a designer and making sure your intentions are showing up in the work you do. My appreciation of reflection as a skill is something that I came to rather recently. Now I appreciate the guidance that comes from having a framework to follow when reflecting. For instance, something we’ve adapted for use at C-SED is the use of questions like: “What worked well? What needs to change? What new ideas can we try? What questions do we still have?”

I also enjoy the more general model of “What? So What? Now What?” (Rolfe, Freshwater, Jasper, 2001, “Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide”) and Ash & Clayton’s 2009 Describe, Examine, and Articulated Learning (DEAL) Model. I first learned about both of these models as a Graduate Academic Liaison with the Ginsberg Center, and I have found that they are transferable to the entire design process. UConn’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning has an overview of several reflection models, including descriptions of the models I just mentioned, if you are interested. 


Name a social justice topic you are passionate about and why.

Many social justice issues are interconnected, but the one I am particularly passionate about is climate justice. In 2021 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report making it clear that now is the time for action if we are going to keep global temperature warming to 1.5 °C. We need to plan for our future, but at the same time we’re already seeing the impacts of climate change, so we need to make sure that we’re also developing solutions for people who are being affected now.

Further social justice resources:


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