HR Employee Learning and Engagement seeks interest for December small group life and career design series

An offering from HR Employee Learning and Engagement invites VU employees to explore how they can apply design thinking to their lives and careers.

Based on the bestseller Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived and Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans of Stanford University, this small group program is a deeply expanded, in-depth version of HR Employee Learning and Engagement’s popular “Design Thinking, Upskilling and Career Growth” learning experience.

HR ELE is hosting a special December offering. A small group will meet four times in December to start gaining momentum and inspiration, then twice in January to continue the exploration. Additional small groups will launch in January 2023.

Think of it as a relevant and practical experience that participants co-create together—an intentional space to focus on your life and career design—with thought-provoking activities and discussions, supportive peers, and a Designing Your Life coach to support you. The goal of the experience is to support participants in building a way forward, which may mean growing or leveraging skills differently in current roles, envisioning and working toward potential promotional opportunities within the university in the near future, and/or contemplating a shift in focus or path at some point.

Together, participants will work through discussions and design thinking activities that will help them get curious, talk to people, try stuff and tell their story. Based on the interest of each small group, participants also may work through activities in Designing Your New Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness—and a New Freedom—at Work (Burnett and Evans), a new book on how one can reframe, remodel, relocate and reinvent rather than resigning. (Here’s a preview of the new work life strategies.)

As a participant in this program, you will:

  • explore and practice design thinking mindsets;
  • engage in design thinking activities during and between group sessions to get curious, talk to people, try stuff and tell your story;
  • contribute to creating a supportive environment of growth-minded individuals across Vanderbilt, both within your group session and within a collaborative virtual space;
  • leverage opportunities to collaborate, create accountability and gain fresh insights; and
  • participate in group experiences (synchronous) over two months and (optional) individual coaching sessions.

Each group session will involve discussions, coaching, reflections and activities. Between sessions, participants will read relevant chapters of Designing Your Life.


This experience is open to Vanderbilt University employees and may be of particular interest to early- and mid-career professionals, those interested in exploring potential career paths and growth opportunities, and those looking for support around professional development and growth. After a popular pilot this spring with three groups, we anticipate that interest will exceed available seats in this small group program. A short application process is involved. Successful applicants reflect on the application questions and provide meaningful responses.

To facilitate the best experience for this program, the number of seats is limited. We ask you to please check your schedule to ensure that you can participate in the scheduled program dates before applying for a seat. Your experience will be more meaningful and valuable when you fully participate in each group session.

More information and interest form 

Upcoming small groups include:

  • December intensive: Dec. 5, 7, 12 and 14 and Jan. 4 and 18, 2–3 p.m. (apply now)
  • January–March, Wednesdays 2–3 p.m.
  • January–March, Thursdays, 11 a.m.–noon

If you are interested in participating in this small group coaching series, please visit the Designing Your Life and Career page and complete the interest form by Dec. 1 (for the December small group start), and we’ll be in touch. If you’d like to participate in January or a future small group, please complete the form and you’ll receive the first invitation to the next offering.

This series is designed and led by Krista Vaught, Ed.D., assistant director of employee learning and engagement on the Human Resources team.

Previous participants on their experiences

“Every time we meet, I feel like I’m given a thought to ponder or a completely new way to look at a situation I’m dealing with. I love the sense of support the group provides and the opportunities for mutual encouragement and appreciation as we each think through the lives we seek to design.” –Jolie Grace Wareham

“This program helps you step out of the box and start to look at work and life in a whole different arena. Even if you think that your work/life is/are great, we all could stand for a change in thought processes to open up to new and exciting things to keep our perspective fresh.” –Machelle Keen

“I thought the small group workshop provided valuable space to connect with employees from other areas at VU. It felt great to break out of the network of my department/school and be reminded of the wider variety of people, jobs, areas and missions that make up VU. In and of itself, in absence of any of the content, just networking with people I’d never met was a great opportunity—it was invigorating and perspective-shifting. I thought Krista’s role as facilitator was executed really well. She helped guide specific activities and conversations, but it really felt like the participants took most of the responsibility for shaping the space and time. I enjoyed hearing more about Krista’s DYL journey and think that her ‘participation’ in that way helped build trust among our group.” –Jeana Poindexter