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NorthState Tech Lab Spotlight– Life Design Institute

It’s a question that people start being asked from a very young age: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It seems simple enough.  Very young children often come up with fantasy responses:  a princess, a superhero.  As children age and get a little older, those answers shift to things that are actual vocations, and usually ones that kids look up to:  a teacher, a firefighter, a doctor.  But as children continue to age and continue their educational journeys, do they stop seeing a clear career path for themselves?  Does an 18-year-old going off to college always really know what he or she wants to be when he or she grows up? 

Some do, of course, but a large, large majority do not.  This leads to lots of “undecided” majors and shifting courses of study halfway through a college career, which can cause setbacks due to course requirements. It can ultimately make a four-year degree take six years, an expensive and long process.  So what can help this?

Enter Life Design Institute.

Founded in early 2019 by Bill Johnson, a professor in the School of Health and Human Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (after offering this training himself through the school since 2014) and business partner Stephanie Williams, Life Design Institute has the goal of “profoundly changing education.”  Johnson and Williams believe that advising is the most direct path to success for students. They train and provide curriculum planning for academic coaches and advisors so that they can then work with students to help them navigate successful college careers.

Life Design Institute has used this process, known as the Catalyst Program, to focus on two main principles with students: Know yourself profoundly and serve profoundly.  They train advisors to take assessments of students in various areas—often the first such inventories for many of them—to sift out their personalities, skills and interests to then “back in” to appropriate course of study paths in college.  This allows for more focus from students and a more succinct college experience.  “Drawing out time in college has a financial impact on students, too, of course,” says Williams.  “Starting a career path out of school with even more debt can be detrimental and hard to overcome.”

So far, Life Design Institute has worked with over 80 colleges and institutions of higher learning across the country to train advisors and coaches.  They have worked with over 2,500 students since Johnson created the program in 2014, and over 80% of those students have reported that they have had greater clarity and direction regarding their choice of major and their future academic, career and life plans

As for their participation in NorthState’s Tech Lab, the folks at Life Design Institute say that this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.  “There has been a dramatic shift in our business plan in these times of COVID-19,” says Williams.  “We want to learn everything we can to make sure we are sustainable right now and can grow.  Being in this supportive atmosphere and having the opportunity to hear from other experts and entrepreneurs is wonderful and reminds us that we are not the only ones feeling this way.”

For more information on Life Design Institute, visit lifedesigninstitute.org.

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