Stanford Design Lab Empathy Map - Submitted by Wendy Elman
School To Work Transition
Design Thinking Action Lab
Stanford Venture Lab
Meet Sean Leitch, age 22
Attended University of Connecticut to major in Physics with intention to
pursue a related career. Realized after two semesters he wanted to switch
to explore a minor in a creative subject area in support of his passion for
product design and music. Dropped out after 2 years.
Passion: collaborative work with designers and manufacturers to develop
Production of technical drawings and product visualizations via 3D
Reverse-engineering of products to improve upon existing designs
Teaching Assistant for High School Marching Band
+ Empathy Map TRIGGER WORDS
Chose school because it was most affordable
Assumed Physics degree would lead to career
Realized right away I did not like Physics, my
Switched to math because I was proficient,
not because I wanted it
I found out I was actually more .. creative
Better choice because of large community
I needed to choose a major to support a career.
Other options not accessible.
I would liked to be “pushed” to explore the things
I was really interested in.
..realize now, specific type of degree is not as
important as the skillset.
Went to advisor but he offered little tangible
Now applying for jobs that match interests
Freelance work starting to come in.
Degree not emphasized in job descriptions
skills emphasized – more important.
Building my resume to pursue a career in
design., what I love to do.
I felt stuck working for a degree in a
program I was no longer interested in
Became less about inspiration and more of
a chore..to get the degree to get a job
There was no where else I could move to.
If I could do it over again I would major in
design and minor in music.
+ Empathy Map SAY
“I chose UConn (over Northeastern) because it was the most affordable choice”
“Went to college assuming my declared major, physics would lead to career and that I needed the
degree to get a job”
Realized right away he did not actually like Physics and wanted to switch.
“I really enjoyed other aspects outside Academics like being in the Marching Band.”
“I found out I was actually more interested in creative subjects so I went to my advisor to ask about
minoring in marketing.”
Declaring a minor in marketing -not easy or affordable- offered through a separate College even
though it was still UConn. He would need to reapply, take prerequisite courses and acquire a
number of credits. No alternative way to explore or develop skills related to interests.
“ I was already in 2 years and adding time and more dept was not an option for me.”
“I ended up switching to math, because I was proficient at it, not because its what I wanted to do
with my career. “
“People who go in knowing what they want to do and get the degree are the lucky ones. I was not
one of those people”.
+ Empathy Map THINK
• “UConn was a better choice than Northeastern because it was bigger, a larger
community who were involved in more than just the academic experience.”
• “I thought going in I needed to chose a major that would support my chosen
• “Another option outside my major in the Academic college I applied to was
never shown to me and was not even accessible.”
• “I would like to see more opportunity and be “pushed” to explore other options
for things I was really interested in.”
• “A degree in chosen major does not always give you the skills you will need to
apply . “for a job
• “Now that I am in workforce and applying for jobs I see specific type of degree
is not as important as the skillset.”
• “If I could do it again, I would tailor my education to what I was really
interested in- design and music”
+ Empathy Map DO
• When he decided he did not actually want a career in Physics he switched to
math because that was the other subject he was “proficient” at.
• “I went to advisor to ask him about doing a minor in marketing but he could not
• There was no other major or minor offered in the Academic College he was
accepted to which matched his creative skills.
• “Now I am out, I have been applying for jobs that match my skills. I am still
designing skateboards and freelance work is starting to come in”.
• “I want to build my resume and pursue a career in the design field further.”
• “I just got an assistant teaching job for a local high school band helping them with
their percussion department. Music is more than a hobby for me.”
• “If I could do it over again I would major in design and minor in music.”
+ Empathy Map FEEL
• “My school had a lot more to offer than just academics, I really liked
the music community.”
• “Music was originally an outlet for fun but I found a real depth in the
community and there were actually a lot more opportunities to try
things in the music department.”
• “After I chose to switched to math, I felt stuck working for a degree
in a program I was no longer interested in.”
• “It became less and less about inspiration and more of a chore I
had to get through in order to get a degree in order to get a job.”
• “I flunked out because it was really hard to get motivated in a field I
wasn’t interested in or going for any more.”
What Surprised Me
Institution for learning was so rigid and inflexible
The college had no clear process for helping students who
want to make a transition, a common occurrence in
No cross training or collaboration between departments across
the various Colleges.
College of Academics (math and science) does little to actually
prepare or inspire students to pursue a career.
Student needs better ways to explore and develop skills related
to subjects and/or areas of interest in a learning environment in
order to better inform and prepare for his/her choice of a career