Requirements & Grading

This is a seminar class that involves substantial reading (facilitated by the online platform Perusall) and both online and in class discussions. Topical lectures from instructors and several guest lecturers will scaffold course topics. Over the course of the semester, students will also complete 5 assignments that together, introduce the emerging Transition Design approach.

Your grade is based upon the following:

  • Participation in class discussions & exercises: 25%
  • Participation in the online Perusall discussion group: 25%
  • Assignments in Miro: 50%  (Wicked Problem Mapping: 10%; Stakeholder Mapping: 10%; Mapping the Evolution of a Wicked Problem: 10%; Designing for Transitions (Visioning/Assessing the Present/Mile-stoning): 10%;  Designing Interventions: 10% ) Details about the 5 assignments can be found within the Assignments section of this website.


How we have made accommodations for course delivery in 2022:

In-class time to work on assignments: Because we are still working in uncertain times and within pandemic-related constraints, we have integrated four in-class work sessions into the course that will enable teams to work on their assignments and get feedback from the instructors. These sessions will be conducted like an ordinary class session (attendance will be taken and students are asked to work for the entire hour and 20 minutes of the class), but they will meet with their teams in Zoom breakout rooms and work on their assignments in Miro. The instructors and TA will circulate throughout the class session to provide feedback and answer questions.

Ability to improve grades on each assignment: each of the 5 assignments must be submitted on the due date, and a grade will be given. However, each team will have the option to work on an assignment further if they would like to submit it a second time for consideration for a higher grade. Teams have until the end of the semester to work further an any given assignment with all assignments due Friday, May 6th.

Participation: In-Class and Online Discussions

Participation in this class will be evaluated on the basis of both in-class discussions and the group discussions using the Perusall platform. In class, evaluation will be based upon students’ overall presence/posture, engagement in discussions & discussion capture in Miro boards, assessment of how prepared they are, understanding of the material and its connection to Transition Design, and the ability to build upon the ideas introduced. Small group discussion of assigned texts in Perusall will involve a discussion string between 4-5 people that will be reviewed and evaluated by the instructors and TA on the basis of both quantity and quality of interactions. Successful participation in both in-class and online discussions involves taking up postures of speculation vs. certainty, learning to ‘dance’ with and build upon others’ ideas (as opposing to entering a debate or proving the other person wrong), being willing to change one’s mind, listening as opposed to ‘waiting to talk’, being generous and encouraging everyone to speak up and participate, not dominating the conversation, speaking clearly and loudly enough for all to hear. 

Guidelines for Online Participation in Zoom

In this class, we aspire to cultivate a sense of community and mindful interaction among everyone in the seminar, so we ask that students adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Please show for class on time. We suggest joining the Zoom call a few minutes early to ensure your technology is working well. The TA will be taking attendance and will be marking ‘tardies’ which will affect grades.
  1. We ask that all students attend class with your video on and your microphone muted unless we are in class or small group discussions. It is very important that we all see each other and be fully present for this class. If a student is experiencing bandwidth issues, we ask that you set up a meeting to discuss this with the instructors and we will do what we can to ensure that you are able to fully participate. Participating with your Zoom camera turned off is not an option for this class.
  1. To begin the semester, we ask that you use the “raised hand” icon in Zoom to signal that you want to talk during large, class discussions.

The Readings

The seminar requires you to do a significant amount of outside reading and engage in an online group discussion of the assigned texts. You will be evaluated on both the quantity and quality of your participation in the online Perusall discussion forum as well as your contribution in class discussions. You will note that we have divided the readings into two categories: Assigned Readings (required) and Supplementary Readings. There will be 1-2 assigned texts for each class, but PhD students are strongly advised to review texts in the Supplement Reading sections.

How to Read Multiple Texts for a Seminar

It is important that students develop the ability to read multiple texts quickly and thoroughly. A good approach is to quickly skim a reading, then go back and read it in depth. The Perusall platform will enable you to mark up text and create a discussion string with others in your group. Texts are also downloadable from the seminar website, so you might consider printing them out and marking them up if you prefer to read them in a different setting.  Highlighting areas/points for discussion in class, making notes, and noting questions are all ways to ensure that you understand the material and come to class prepared. The readings we have selected combine recent texts from journals, blogs and publications with classic (and often out of print) texts from science, anthropology, sociology and other areas. This is a helpful article that discusses reading for graduate school.

Why We Assign Diverse Readings

The wide variety of texts serves two purposes: 1) it acquaints you with key historical concepts/ideas and thought leaders from varied fields and disciplines and 2) it provides you with experience in relating ideas from other fields and disciplines to design theory and practice. Designers are continually asked to step into new territories, and the ability to synthesize new concepts and ideas in order to inform action is a key skill. In this seminar you are helping to constitute a new area of design focus: Transition Design. However the skill of synthesizing ideas and concepts from disparate discipline in order to inform practice and research is highly valued in commercial and non-profit organizations.

Discussing the Texts

We aim to build a culture of trust in this course in which people respect each other’s views but also feel able to engage in lively debate. Come to the discussions prepared to present your point of view, but always be willing to change your mind. Be vocal, but generous. Be aware of whether you are monopolizing the conversation and be willing to hand the discussion off to others and ask someone who hasn’t yet spoken, “what do you think?”. Build upon or challenge what others have said to keep interesting discussions going. Be aware of whether you’re truly listening or simply ‘waiting to talk.’ A good discussion is a dance; you’re building on what others have said (not changing the subject without acknowledging you are and saying why). You’re not being asked to deliver a lecture or monologue within class discussions. If you find yourself getting perturbed or upset about what someone is saying, consider the possibility that it might be because your deeply held beliefs and assumptions are being challenged—that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and is one of the objectives of a university education. Practice and hone your powers of articulation. Be brave. Be curious. Be kind. Discussion is an art and ability that designers need to cultivate.


On time, consistent attendance and in-class/online participation is important in this course. We understand that we are all operating in unusual circumstances that continue to present challenges for both students and instructors.

Absences of any kind—both body and mind—are strongly discouraged as your learning and work will be adversely affected by the information and activities you miss. Please be punctual, arriving just before the class start time so we can begin sessions promptly, stay for the duration of each class, and actively participate. Please also schedule doctor’s appointments, interviews, etc. for times other than class sessions. Attendance will be taken at the start of each class. If you are five minutes late or leave class early you will be marked as absent.

Three absences may cause your final grade to drop a letter. Six absences may earn you a failing grade for the course. 

If you need to miss class:
Whether due to a health or life issue (such as a physician providing you with instructions that necessitate your quarantine), please notify us (email your instructors, and Design students should copy advisors—undergrads: Melissa Cicozi or grads: Donna Cardiff Frost) as soon as possible to provide an idea of the severity of your illness/issue and the length of time needed for recovery. We will work with you to overcome any obstacles you face. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for information you miss through absences or lateness. (Note: If your illness/issue requires recovery time that exceeds the absence policy for a passing grade, a leave of absence may need to be considered. If this becomes the case, consultation with university resources on how best to support you may be necessary.)

Lastly, a review or exhibit will likely be scheduled for courses during finals week. Failure to attend and participate in these sessions may cause your final grade to drop a letter. Please bring academic timing conflicts to our attention as soon as possible and do not make holiday plans before verifying the date of the event with us.

Note again that attending conferences and job interviews do not count as excused absences.

Academic Integrity & Plagiarism

​​Honesty and transparency are important features of good scholarship. On the flip side, plagiarism and cheating are serious academic offenses with serious consequences. If you are discovered engaging in either behavior in this course, you will earn a failing grade on the assignment in question, and further disciplinary action may be taken.

Plagiarism is regarded by the university and the School of Design as a serious academic offense. Depending on the content and context of the offense, and at the recommendation of the course instructor, the penalty shall be either failure of the assignment or failure of the courses. You can access the  academic integrity policy online.

Here’s the gist of it: Plagiarism includes but is not limited to, failure to indicate the source with quotation marks, footnotes, or other appropriate referencing if any of the following are reproduced in the work submitted by a student: 1. Text, written or spoken; 2. Graphic elements; 3. Mathematical proofs; 4. Scientific data; 5. Concepts or materials derived from the work, published or unpublished, of another person.

Note that plagiarism does not only refer to copying portions of written text, but also includes copying designs and other visuals such as photographs without proper attribution. While less obvious than written plagiarism, design plagiarism is often characterized as copying both the design (type, color, composition, image style, etc.) and the concept/communication goal of a project. With design examples easy to find online, it is important to use what you find as references and not copy them directly.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability and are registered with the Office of Disability Resources, please use their online system to notify us of your accommodations and discuss your needs with us as early in the semester as possible. We will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, we encourage you to contact them at

Additional Expectations

If you have a disability and are registered with the Office of Disability Resources, please use their online system to notify us of your accommodations and discuss your needs with us as early in the semester as possible. We will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, we encourage you to contact them at

University Mandated Responsibilities 

We expect that you will abide by all behaviors indicated in The Tartan’s Responsibility, including any timely updates based on current community conditions. In addition, while we encourage and support professional development through conferences and your search for internships and careers beyond the degree, we also expect you to balance these opportunities with the commitment you have made to your education here. In the event that you want to take advantage of professional opportunities that conflict with class sessions please discuss them with us. For team projects, it is critical that you negotiate with your colleagues your fair completion of work according to assigned schedules and due dates.

Communication with Instructors

If you have questions outside of class please email us: or We will respond to you as soon as possible. Keep in mind, we usually don’t check email often late in the evenings and throughout weekends. The questions and comments we receive from students are often relevant to the entire class. We will use email as the primary method for communicating with individuals as well as communicating changes in course readings, format and in making announcements. Please check your email daily for updates.

If you would like to meet outside of scheduled class hours, please contact us and list several days/times that work for you and we’ll try to find a time that works with our schedule. 

Leverage learning resources.

The Student Academic Success Center (SASC) offers numerous resources that aim to support your learning. For example, they offer  free one-on-one communication consulting as well as group workshops to support strong written, oral, and visual communication in texts including IMRaD and thesis-driven essays, data-driven reports, oral presentations, posters and visual design, advanced research, application materials, grant proposals, data visualization, business and public policy documents, and team projects. Appointments are available to undergraduate and graduate students from any discipline at CMU. Schedule an appointment  (in-person or video), attend a workshop, or consult handouts or videos to strengthen communication skills.

Adopt diversity, equity, and inclusion practices.

We must treat every individual with respect. We are diverse in many ways, and this diversity is fundamental to building and maintaining an equitable and inclusive campus community. Diversity can refer to multiple ways that we identify ourselves, including but not limited to race, color, national origin, language, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, ancestry, belief, veteran status, or genetic information. Each of these diverse identities, along with many others not mentioned here, shape the perspectives our students, faculty, and staff bring to our campus. We, at CMU, will work to promote diversity, equity and inclusion not only because diversity fuels excellence and innovation, but because we want to pursue justice. We acknowledge our imperfections while we also fully commit to the work, inside and outside of our classrooms, of building and sustaining a campus community that increasingly embraces these core values.

Each of us is responsible for creating a safer, more inclusive environment. Unfortunately, incidents of bias or discrimination do occur, whether intentional or unintentional. They contribute to creating an unwelcoming environment for individuals and groups at the university. Therefore, the university encourages anyone who experiences or observes unfair or hostile treatment on the basis of identity to speak out for justice and support, within the moment of the incident or after the incident has passed. Anyone can share these experiences using the following resources:

Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion:, (412) 268-2150
Report-It online anonymous reporting platform: username: tartans password: plaid

All reports will be documented and deliberated to determine if there should be any following actions. Regardless of incident type, the university will use all shared experiences to transform our campus climate to be more equitable and just.

Take care of yourself

The School of Design encourages all of its students to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. 

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. CMU services are available, and treatment does work. You can learn more about confidential mental health services available on campus at: Support is always available (24/7) from Counseling and Psychological Services: 412-268-2922.

Note, if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night. Remember, asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

CaPS: 412-268-2922
Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the police
On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323
Off campus: 911