What is DFA?

Design for America (DFA) is an organization comprised of students motivated to solve real world problems through creative and sustainable solutions. We accomplish this by using the Design Thinking Process, which is a human-centered method of problem solving. We start by identifying a user group with what we call a problem space. Next, through interviews and experiential learning, we get as hands-on as possible with the user group to learn about specific problems that they need to be addressed. Then we brainstorm solutions, and finally create and test those solutions for effectiveness, adjusting our approach as needed. 


Our Process

As creative problem solvers, Design Thinking is at the heart of everything we do. This solutions-based approach can be broken down into five interwoven steps.
1. Empathize

Simply put, empathizing means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. We use this to look at a problem/situation through our user’s eyes rather than our own.

2. Define

By exploring our newfound knowledge, we begin to formulate it. The main goal in this stage is framing the problem clearly and defining it as a problem statement.

3. Ideate

During the Ideate phase, interpret the problem statements in as many ways as possible and brainstorm (or ideate) as many solution ideas as possible.

4. Prototype

The prototype phase of the design thinking process is all about creating a representation of the previously defined solutions to evaluate how beneficial they’ll be for the final product.

5. Test

The testing phase, even though the name is pretty much self-explanatory, is about testing the prototype(s) with your users and measuring their understanding and response to the presented solution.


Our Studio

We call ourselves a Design Studio because we value creativity and most importantly, individuality. Design for America UA is a diverse group from all corners of campus - which we believe helps us to make an even bigger impact.
Hannah Peterson

Process Studio Lead - Joined Spring 2019

“My name is Hannah Petersen, and I am a sophomore from Charlotte, North Carolina! I am double majoring in International Studies and Economics. I am super excited to use the process of design thinking to solve problems in the local Tuscaloosa community, while also learning more about how using such a creative process can help me improve my own life. Besides being in DFA, I am an Avanti Orientation Leader, an Engage Tuscaloosa mentor, and a weekly volunteer through Serving Bama. In my free time, you can probably find me with either a camera or a dog (or, ideally, both).”

Lillian Stevens

Culture Studio Lead - Joined Fall 2019

“Hey there! My name is Lilly Stevens, a sophomore studying marketing and entrepreneurship hailing from the great city of Huntsville, AL. I want to be a part of innovative projects and lasting change in our community, so when I discovered DFA, I got excited! You can usually find me scouring the internet for concert tickets or becoming obsessed with a new language (this week: Turkish). Outside of DFA, my passions include live music, camping, and really good cups of coffee.”

Handley Hicks

Community Studio Lead - Joined Fall 2019

“Heyo! I’m Handley Hicks—a freshman from St. Louis, Missouri, majoring in Economics in Mathematics with a minor in Spanish. I joined DFA because of my love for people and working in a team of dedicated individuals towards a common goal. Outside of DFA, I am involved in Bama Year One, Capstone Church, the Honors College, Campus Life, and the best intramural flag football team on campus! In my free time I geek out about playing the guitar and all things music related.”
Jordan Olson

Project Manager - Joined Fall 2015

“I’m a fifth year student (Junior? Senior? Who’s to say) from Galesburg, IL studying Mechanical and Architectural Engineering. I’ve been with DFA since my Freshman year, and I’m also involved in other areas of campus as a Resident Advisor and Ambassador to the College of Engineering. I play guitar, and I’m big into 3D modeling!”

Marie Neubrander

Project Manager - Joined Fall 2017

“Hi, I’m Marie – a junior majoring in Math and Computer Science with minors in Economics and the Randall Research Scholar Program. In addition to DFA, I am actively involved in ACM, Alabama Action, and undergraduate research.”

Chance Tudor

Community Studio Lead - Joined Fall 2017

“Hey y’all! I’m Chance, a Senior from Cincinnati, Ohio majoring in Computer Science and minoring in German. I joined DFA as a way to meet dedicated, thoughtful students on campus and make a lasting change in and around Tuscaloosa. In addition to DFA, I’m a member of the Blackburn Institute–another way for me to learn about and impact the great state of Alabama positively, using a policy-based approach. In my free time, I like to drum and read.”

Gabie Wingett

Studio Member - Joined Fall 2017

“Hellooo, my name is Gabie Wingett and I have been a part of DFA for almost 3 years now! I am a nursing major passionate about people, laundry, and my pet fish Nick. I joined DFA to make real change in the community that lasts beyond my time in Tuscaloosa. yeet yeet”

Lauren Mackey

Studio Member - Joined Spring 2018

“Hey! My name is Lauren Mackey, and I’m a junior Electrical Engineering major from Flowood, MS minoring in Mathematics and Physics. I joined DFA because I wanted to impact peoples’ lives in a productive way and be surrounded my a group of students who were going to push me to my fullest potential in all aspects of life. My other campus activities include being a member of the Ecocar Team, the Honors College, Chi Omega, and the Director of Events and Community Service for the Student Alumni Association.”

Spencer Fuhriman

Studio Member - Joined Spring 2018

“Hey! I’m Spencer/Spence/lil’ Spence and I’m a Senior Computer Science student from Boise, Idaho. I joined DFA to do cool stuff with cool people while making a sustainable impact within Tuscaloosa. Besides DFA, I work as a Student Developer for CAPS and as the Digital Director for The Marr’s Field Journal. My favorite ways to waste time include listening to soft indie bangers, learning Japanese, studying Symbolic Systems, and reading board game rulebooks.”

Natalie Nickerson

Financial Guru - Joined Spring 2018

“Hi! I’m Natalie and I’m an Aerospace Engineering major from Green Bay, Wisconsin. I love being a part of DFA because I am surrounded by motivated people who challenge me constantly to think outside of the box and step out of my comfort zone. In my free time I look at cake recipes on Pinterest, and think of as many vague reasons as possible to make baked goods.”

Maddie Spivey

People Person - Joined Fall 2018

“Hello! I hail from the heavenly city that is Iowa City, Iowa. I’m an English major, and minoring in Linguistics, Educational Studies, and Creative Writing. DFA was everything I was looking for on campus; it’s dedicated to innovative, challenging, and sustainable change, in communities that ask for it. I’m also a mentor through the Honors College, I’m working with the College of Engineering on a satellite, and I’m an intern for Engage Tuscaloosa. I spend the majority of my free time reading, but I also really enjoy writing, listening to music, and hiking.” 

Sean Wei

Studio Member - Joined Fall 2018

“Hi, I’m Sean Wei, a junior at UA studying Electrical Engineering. Being a part of change is something I’ve never really gotten to experience, and DFA really called to me with their focus on sustainable change. I’ve had a Smashing time engaging with the community so far, and hope to see the results of all the work we put in. Apart from DFA, I really enjoy rock climbing and competing in Super Smash Bros Melee.”

Mary Czyzewski

Project Manager - Joined Fall 2018

“Hi y’all, I’m Mary Czyzewski, a sophomore from Avon, Indiana majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Public Policy. When I’m not DFA-ing, I’m pursuing my other passions of puns, musical theater, true crime, and as many craft projects as will fit inside my dorm!”

Megan Scott

Studio Member - Joined Fall 2019

“Hi I’m Megan! I’m a Freshman from Murfreesboro, Tennessee majoring in Microbiology on the Pre-Optometry track. I joined DFA for the opportunity to implement creative thought processes into serving the Tuscaloosa community and to meet thoughtful and empowering people who will push me to be the best version of myself. In my free time, catch me stargazing, baking, crafting, or doing anything outdoors!”
Katie Nunez

Studio Member - Joined Fall 2019

“I’m Katie, a junior majoring in Public Relations and International studies from Nashville, TN! I joined DFA because I wanted to make positive and lasting change in my community. On campus, also I’m involved in the International Relations Club, Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity, and my job at the Ferguson Student Center. When I’m not in class or working, I love studying languages, hiking and running!”

Our Projects

What we do - and even more importantly, how we do it - is the core of our mission as an organization.
We work hard to make sure that we make a big impact, and we're proud of the work we've done.
These projects are both completed work and in-progress projects!.

STEMgineers project in Pickens County, Alabama


Our Work on the University of Alabama’s campus with Mental Health issues


Gym Intimidation

(In progress) Addressing ‘Gym Intimidation’ on Alabama’s campus


Connect With Us