Serra's Design-Led Innovation Program

Finding problems worth solving using a design thinking approach . . .

Serra’s Design-Led Innovation Program, an interdisciplinary course of study within the Innovation, Information and Technology department, introduces students to the principles of design thinking—a human-centered approach to innovation that uncovers problems worth solving by gaining deep empathy for people's needs. Students apply these skills to real-world problems they identify, and ultimately select a capstone project centered on a topic of genuine interest to them and of benefit to the community.

The program is designed to give students opportunities to become innovators, who find solutions to real world problems. It draws on logic, imagination, intuition and systematic reasoning to explore what could be—to create solutions that will truly benefit the end user.

Partnership with SAP

Serra partnered with SAP, a world-leading software producer and early adopter of design thinking as a strategy for innovation, on initial curriculum development for the program. SAP also provided on-campus training for faculty, and a number of Serra faculty members have participated in extended training with SAP employees at the company’s corporate training facilities. Others have completed training at the Stanford at Stanford University. 





The Design-Led Innovation Curriculum


Principles of Design Thinking is a foundational course for the Design-Led Innovation Program. It’s a hands-on, one-semester elective that introduces students to the five stages of the design thinking process--empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. The class puts an emphasis on empathy, understanding how different perspectives may lead to very different design problems and solutions. Students can take design thinking as part of the program or as a standalone elective. The class supports students’ growth in a wealth of transferable skills such the ability to define problems, empathize with others and to think creatively and systematically to generate viable solutions. Serra teachers across the curriculum also use elements of the design thinking process in their classrooms.

Creative Solutions for the Global Good is a year-long course of study culminating in a capstone project of the student’s choice, focused on service and community. Students are supported by mentors, learn to overcome challenges and showcase their work to an international audience at the the end of the school year, in celebration of their achievement.

Advanced Solutions for the Global Good is a year-long course of study that allows students who took the Creative Solutions class to continue developing their project or to apply their skills to a new capstone project.
One exciting aspect of both the Creative Solutions and Advanced Solutions classes is the opportunity to connect with students, teachers and business professionals from around the world.
Serra Padres are currently sharing ideas with students in Cape Town, South Africa, and Nagoya, Japan. Creative and inspiring guest speakers from all over the world regularly "Zoom" into classes to share their experiences about projects and companies that they have started and present diverse perspectives.



Serra Global Speakers Series

The Serra Global Speaker Series, launched in 2020, brings fascinating speakers from around the world to Serra to discuss cutting edge topics and share their personal stories. An integral part of the Design-Led Innovation Program, its goal is to connect Serra students in meaningful ways with creative and inspiring people and organizations from around the globe. Other groups within the school community are invited and encouraged to attend speaker presentations.

2022-2023 Serra Global Speakers

Jason Brooks, founder and CEO of an early-stage startup that uses conversational intelligence to show how individual interactions affect meeting dynamics.

More information and link to register can be found here!

Ben Schumaker, founder of The Memory Project, which has high school students (including Padres) create hand-painted portraits as special gifts for children facing challenges around the world.

Maky Zanganeh, a health industry innovator and international speaker who addressed the delegates at the closing ceremony of the United Nations session in February 2022.

speaker visit moved to Fall 2023.

Kishore Asthana, an engineer based in Gurugram, India. He is the past president of Mensa India and currently the chairman of the Dhruv Foundation.

This program inspires Serra students to expand their understanding of community and brotherhood beyond the walls of Serra—to develop meaningful connections with people from other countries as they collaborate on service projects. This lies at the heart of the Serra mission. It is both exciting and profoundly meaningful."

Serra president barry thornton, ed.d.



Capstone Projects

Matthew Cerza '21

In June of 2021, Padre Matthew Cerza addressed an audience of several thousand teachers at the annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education. Cerza was chosen for his capstone project to gather donated laptops and refurbish them to be "Zoom ready" in order to provide to senior citizens who were isolated and alone due to the COVID lockdown.

Billy Kulda '22

In last year's class, Billy Kulda planned programs for a group of students at an elementary school outside of Manila in the Philippines, where he focused on cultural lessons and English language practice.

Michael Khoury '23

Michael Khoury, who discovered a passion for chess during the early stages of the pandemic, began developing and delivering a chess curriculum to students at high-needs elementary schools in the area to teach them strategic thinking and patience in the face of adversity.



Meet the Design-Led Innovation Team

Rushton Hurley
   Creative Solutions for the Global Good
   Advanced Solutions for the Global Good

Rushton Hurley is an international speaker on education who has been working with Serra for the past 13 years. He has lived, worked and taught around the world for decades, and brings invaluable insights and professional connections to the Design-Led Innovation program.

Rita Lee
Assistant Principal of Academics
   Creative Solutions for the Global Good
   Advanced Solutions for the Global Good

With advanced degrees from Stanford and Harvard, Rita Lee has developed some of the school's most innovative curricula and programs over her 18-year career at Serra. She is the driving force behind our Design-Led Innovation Program.

Barb Luis
Teacher, Design Thinking

Veteran Serra history teacher Barb Luis became a MERIT Fellow at the Krause Center for Innovation, where she participated in an intensive program for technology educators prior to embracing her role as a key member of the Design-Led Innovation team.