UCI MHCID Cohort 1 | Intensive #2
Posed for the camera, we sure do look like a bunch of happy, healthy grad students, about to eat a nice meal together. What you cannot see, whether for lack of image resolution, or because you can’t capture such things on film, are two important things — the genuine camaraderie and friendship that exists among this group, and the sad state of all of our collective skin only a few days after finals had been handed in. Both are important, though I suppose I would argue that the skin issue is slightly less important, but I wouldn’t dream of speaking for the whole cohort when it comes to personal dermatological upkeep and care. But I digress.
While it’s true we had not seen each other face-to-face in over six months, we had been working in a variety of group permutations for many of the projects we had done in the prior two terms. We had seen each other’s faces, read each other’s words, seen each other’s work, and in a few cases saw each other in person, briefly. But the whole group had not been together in many moons, yet an outsider would never have guessed as much to watch us slowly arrive and convene at a hotel lobby in Irvine, California. We greeted each other like long-lost friends and relatives, immediately picking up on conversations which had been going on, in some cases, for months via Slack, Facebook, and class message boards. We asked about each other’s significant others and families, while we hugged somewhat awkwardly around backpacks and luggage. It was like the school reunion I never had (not that I ever went to one), and it was made all the more festive by the fact that there seemed to be a very large wedding party gathering around us in the lobby, which surely thought we were just as out-of-place, as we considered them.
While on campus, and in the hotel we stayed at in the evenings, I witnessed a group, who in September had been lacking conviction and confidence in their opinions, but were now engaging not just with each other but with the material we had learned on a whole other level than six months prior. My cohort-mates buckled down in earnest, and with very little clear direction, set to work in newly assigned groups on the task of preparing to meet their respective clients for a capstone project which would last the next six months. Using the tools we had been taught, the skills we had gained in working collaboratively, and the space to “figure it out,” each group came together rapidly to understand and digest their new client’s needs, their customer’s needs, and the biggest question of them all — “Why?” Why are we (the design team) being engaged now? Why does the issue we think we need to solve for, need to be solved?
Over three days (which felt like a week) we came together quickly and worked some team magic before heading back to our respective homes on the fourth day. It was, quite frankly, inspiring to watch what happened, knowing that we would go back home, back to work, back to the rest of our lives, and yet would maintain this tether to 20 other amazing, very unlike-minded individuals, who all share the gift/skill of being amazingly empathetic. Whether we came to this program capable of this deep level of empathy for others, or it has been a learning process over the last two terms, I can say with certainty that I have never met a group who, while very different from each other in so many ways, was able to individually and collectively empathize with the rest of the group so well. This has resulted in a group of 21 of quite possibly the most unlikely of friends learning through their own personal experience, with each other, the essence of any program in HCID — empathy for other humans.
Now, I won’t lie to you — none of us slept very much for those few days. Well, some of us managed a quick nap.