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DIVE: Empathizing with the Lived Experiences of Refugees

Empathizing with the Lived Experiences of Refugees

Quick Facts

  • When: Spring 2018
  • Who: All Vanderbilt Students
  • How Much: Students Granted a Limited Budget for Travel & Project Costs

Local OACS DIVE: Empathizing With the Lived Experiences of Refugees is a service learning program designed for students to explore the current global crisis of human displacement through a local lens in the Nashville community utilizing human-centered design.

Student participants in the DIVE cohort will engage in a highly immersive service-learning partnership for 2-3 hours each week with a local resettlement or refugee services agency to better understand the lived experiences of refugees in the Nashville community.

On a bi-weekly basis, students will also participate in a 2-hour seminar. The seminars, which combine an hour of content and context with a design lab, may feature community partners, panels, guest lecturers, or presentations. Each seminar concludes with an hour of design lab, which gives teams of students time to discuss the human-centered design process in relation to their service partner. Following a brief introduction to the causes of human displacement and the resettlement process, the seminar series will require students go out into the community to better understand refugees’ access to affordable housing, health care, education, cultural preservation, and advocacy in Davidson county.

Utilizing the human-centered design thinking process, and with its intentional inclusion of community partner and community member feedback, students will develop evidence-based and targeted approaches to alleviate community-identified stressors and promote advocacy within Nashville’s refugee populations, culminating in the presentation of a developed prototype. At the conclusion of the program, students will present their prototype in an effort to enact actionable change.

IPARD, a critical service-learning pedagogy

Human-Centered Design Thinking Pedagogy


I. General Information

  1. Program Title: DIVE: Empathizing with the Lived Experiences of Refugees
  2. Level/Specialty: Students of any discipline
  3. Program Prerequisites: Completion of application and acceptance and OACS background check

Program Structure:  Students will complete a total of 2-3 service hours per week with an agency in the community serving refugees. There will also be a 3-hour Design Thinking Boot Camp, a 2-hour Meaningful Service Institute, 6 2-hour seminars bi-weekly, and a closing celebration. Below is the structure of the program. Dates are tentative and will be finalized once the cohort is selected.

Local OACS DIVE Bootcamp – Tuesday January 16th, 5:00 – 8:00pm

Partner Meet-and-Greet – Thursday January 18th, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Submit Partner Placement Preferences

Placement Week

Placements Finalized

Meaningful Service Institute – Tuesday January 23rd, 6:00-8:00pm

DIVE Seminar and Design Lab 1, 2 hours

DIVE Seminar and Design Lab 2, 2 hours

DIVE Seminar and Design Lab 3, 2 hours

DIVE Seminar and Design Lab 4, 2 hours

DIVE Seminar and Design Lab 5, 2 hours

DIVE Seminar and Design Lab 6, 2 hours

DIVE Spring 2018 Closing Celebration

II. Program Objectives

Primary Learning Outcomes

    1. Examine the root causes and consequences of human displacement
    2. Identify barriers to existing and integrating fully into new communities including equitable access to health, work, and education experienced by refugees and displaced persons living in Nashville
    3. Implement human-centered design thinking to address complex real-world problems


    Secondary Learning Outcomes

    1. Describe the resettlement experience from the perspective of displaced persons
    2. Analyze the complex relationships between local resettlement agencies, the US government and the larger communities into which displaced people are resettled
    3. Engage critical thinking skills through examining deep-rooted issues related to equity and justice
    4. Critically reflect on the interconnectedness of communities worldwide through challenging assumptions and considering alternative perspectives
    5. Recognize one’s own potential to affect meaningful community change while maintaining a humble appreciation of the challenges of impact

III. Program Requirements

Learning Experiences:

  1. DIVE Local OACS Bootcamp (3 hours)
  2. Meaningful Service Institute (2 hours)
  3. 6 Bi-weekly seminars and design lab (2 hours every other week)
  4. Online learning activities such as podcasts, documentaries, webinars and modules
  5. Seminar Preparatory readings
  6. 2-3 hrs of service per week with a local refugee advocacy agency over the course of the semester
  7. Development and presentation of a prototype as a result of the human-centered design process

IV. Community Partner Site Placements

  • Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE)
  • Catholic Charities