How will my application be evaluated?

We want to hear your story, your hopes and dreams and what you want to accomplish in your career. We are looking to learn about you, what you’re passionate about, what you want to learn and why. Whether you’re looking to grow your current organization, want to transition into a new role, or you’re trying to have the time and space to reboot and consider what’s next, be honest about where you’re at in your journey. We hope that the application process might serve as a reflective practice for you to step back and articulate what you’re hoping to accomplish. If you have questions about admissions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to xsd@design.upenn.edu so we can discuss.

Are there any prerequisites to apply?

No, there are no educational prerequisites to apply for this program—we are looking for leaders across all industries with a variety of perspectives.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to xsd@design.upenn.edu so we can discuss your questions.

What courses will I take during the program?

You will complete a total of four online courses and attend an in-person convening at the University of Pennsylvania. Required courses include: Design Thinking for Social Innovation and Engagement for Impact; electives include Performance Management, Business Models for Social Enterprise, Self & Society, Social Media and Mobilizing People. There is one optional course entitled Self & Society, plus an additional opportunity for a one-day in-person session at the end to workshop your idea with advisors.

What is the in-person programming?

Our program also features an in-person learning component which is important to our educational model. The in-person component will take place at the University of Pennsylvania on October 28 + 29, 2019. During this time you will complete critical coursework in design thinking and leadership and make progress in problem definition for your studio project. You will also solidify relationships with the other members of the cohort to share your ideas and build connections that facilitate your learning throughout the program.

Are financial aid or scholarships available?

Our program is designed to have the lowest tuition possible without losing the integrity of the educational experience. We’re proud to say it’s one of the most affordable executive programs available today. Since the program tuition is already being offered at a discounted rate relative to other similar programs, we’re unfortunately unable to offer any scholarships. Previous students have gotten partial or full tuition covered from their employers as well, and we also encourage students to crowdfund if possible. If you have questions about finances, please don’t hesitate to reach out to xsd@design.upenn.edu so we can discuss.

What is the refund policy for the Executive Program?

The $950 tuition deposit is not refundable. Refunds on balances paid will be made according to the policy of the School of Social Policy & Practice OpenSP2 refund policy.

OpenSP2 supports requests for refunds to non-credit programs in writing only to the appropriate program leadership, please see the specific program page for contact information. On-demand programs require that refunds requests occur within 14 days of the start of the program, and only if less than 25% of course materials have been engaged with (based on course data analytics). Programs which run on a calendar basis with live course sessions require cancellation and refund requests to be made at least 14 days in advance of the course start date. OpenSP2 may provide a transfer option to individuals who cancel beyond the limits of this policy, that decision is at the discretion of the program leader.

Individual programs and programs from affiliated PennSP2 centers each set final program cancellation and refund policies; participants should check program policies before registration and payment. OpenSP2 is a division of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice which receives the right to change, alter or adjust this policy. OpenSP2 reserves the right to cancel any program for low enrollment or other extenuating circumstances at any time, before the start of the program. If SP2 cancels a program, all participants will receive a full refund. Please also note programs offered on third-party platforms (edX or Coursera) are subject to the policies of that platform.

Official communications may be sent to xsd@design.upenn.edu

How much time can I expect the program to take?

We anticipate that most students will spend about 6 – 10 hours per week on the program, but of course this may vary. The program is a part-time program that is designed to be taken alongside, and complementary to, your existing professional responsibilities.

How often are online course materials released?

We release materials each week that the class is offered. Once released, the material will remain available until the duration of the program. All assignment submission due dates are in ET.

Can I take more than two electives?

Yes, if you complete the two required electives we will honor requests to audit additional electives of your choice.

Will there be a program in the spring?

We are not planning a spring 2021 cohort. Our fall cohorts begin in early September each year.

Do you offer the option to defer?

We will honor your admission to the 2019 cohort for 2 subsequent years. If you would like to defer, please respond to your admittance email with a written request.

Would I have to pay an upfront fee to reserve my spot this year, even if I were deferring to next year’s cohort?

You would not have to pay the initial fee this year if you are choosing to defer to next year’s cohort. We will honor your admission to the 2020 cohort for 2 subsequent years.

As a Penn employee, are there tuition benefits?

Penn’s tuition benefit program does not cover non-credit courses such as our executive education certificate program. Penn’s policies regarding tuition benefits can be found here.

Does the XSD program offer scholarships or financial assistance?

At the moment, the XSD program does not offer scholarships or financial assistance. We encourage all prospective students to apply by the July 1st early application deadline for $600 discount in the tuition rate. Please reach out to the XSD team directly for advice on how to document program costs to be reimbursed by your place of work.

Do employers cover the costs for students to take this certificate?

Employer policies will vary greatly amongst students. Some previous Penn students have gotten partial or full tuition covered by their employers in similar certificate programs. If you have questions about the information you need to present to your employer to make this request, please email us at xsd@design.upenn.edu.

Can you tell me more about the previous cohort members?

Our inaugural 2019 cohort were a talented group of 60 students from 30 US states and four countries. These XSD alum are a mix of mid-career professionals representing non-profit mission-driven organizations and design professions. Some came with specific project ideas to implement and others used the program to explore and develop ideas that evolved into their final project. These creative optimists sought to find meaning with their projects considering a wide range of individual questions such as: "How might we make mental health resources accessible to more Asian-Americans?" or "How might we reduce turnover in affordable housing projects?"

Through the program, these XSD learners went through the iterative process of design thinking: changing how they framed problems, gathering information through interviews, prototyping, testing, storyboarding — challenging their assumptions at every step. Solutions presented by the students included such projects as writing a financial literacy guide for young African-American women and designing a more efficient grocery cart system, to name just two. We will be adding some alum profiles to this FAQ page so you can learn more about individual stories.

What types of projects will we do? What sort of practical and interpersonal skills will we learn during the program?

This curriculum was created as a collaboration between the Weitzman School and the School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2). As a result, students are expected to take courses that focus on design thinking, as well as social impact, and will apply their learning from each discipline to one studio project for the duration of the curriculum.

Cohort members have the flexibility to choose a topic of their interest for a studio project, while faculty members and fellow cohort members will help each individual hone their problem statement and project focus during the in-person convening on campus. The in-person convening, as well as the pitch day at the end of the curriculum are a great chance to gain interpersonal skills.

Faculty members of this curriculum have taught students that have gone on to create leading products and found companies, such as Lilu and Lia. These students were able to apply their learning to develop practical yet innovative solutions to problems faced today.

Do I need to know my exact studio project idea before I begin?

While many cohort members choose to focus on subject areas relevant to their professional jobs or current roles, it is not crucial to have an exact studio project idea before you begin. Our Self and Society course is a great way to reflect on values that are important to you and how you can apply your belief system to communities you wish to help. The curriculum will also guide you through the design process with three simple steps: (1) Define, (2) Design, (3) Pilot. The first phase of the process will be your chance to define your studio project before turning it into a viable product or experience.

What are some recommended readings that put design thinking into a social innovation context?

We would recommend taking a look at these articles for further reading in this space: (1) HBR Article: Design Thinking Comes of Age by John Kolko, (2) Stanford Social Innovation Review article by Tim Brown and Jocelyn Whyatt

What are the faculty members looking for in my application?

There are no application fees and the application itself should not take you longer than 30 minutes to complete. The application requests some basic background information about yourself, a resume upload, and responses to three very short (< 250 words each) essay questions. Just be yourself as you compose your application. Our faculty are looking forward to reading your story.

Have more questions?

Drop us a line. We’d be happy to answer any remaining questions you might have about the XSD program.

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