Portrait of a Graduate: Design and Production

March 27, 2024 | Christina Swan


Life at Waterloo is centered around more than just academic achievement. Our portrait of a graduate outlines a variety of skills needed to complete a trifecta of personal, productive, and academic goals.

In our last blog, Craig Doerksen talked about discovery and analysis, the first steps towards understanding a problem. Once we understand the “why” behind a project, we can start to design real solutions and produce real results.

Now it’s time to take the research and investigation and critical analysis and begin designing and creating a product for our audience.

Our class of 2023 gets a final word of encouragement about using design and production in the real world.

Turning ideas into action

What is required to be productive — to be someone that creates something of value?

If growing in our discovery and analysis skills are one side of the productivity coin, then actually doing what we have set out to do is the other side of that coin.

The doing side takes all that knowledge from understanding the problem and puts it into action. Our world is ready for good action.

Seeing things through

The design process requires resolve.

Resolve means actually taking those ideas that we locked up in our heads or sketched on paper and get them out — to begin prototyping. Every year I love watching students experience the pride and satisfaction of seeing their ideas come to life.

They will churn out hundreds of concept sketches for an Engineering project. They will consider countless ideas for their Senior Seminar videos. But eventually, these ideas had to become a concrete, tangible product.

Progressing from ideation to the prototype stage often requires a firm deadline to create that product. Often, we flounder and our productivity gets paralyzed when we don’t have an end date in sight. With a deadline in mind, we set short, obtainable, and realistic goals to give us the space to do some deep work.

BUT, because we all know that the prototype is never the finished product, we need resolve to keep going towards the end goal.

Students begin projects at Waterloo with concept sketches.

Incorporating feedback

Woven into this flow of production lie three crucial practices that can seriously take our prototype to final product:

  1. seek advice
  2. receive and incorporate feedback
  3. and revise

This is where resolve meets vulnerability. Feedback from academic experts and teachers opens our eyes to what works well, and it often reveals new ways to present our ideas.

Putting our ideas on the table for someone to pick through is a vulnerable thing to do, especially if it’s something we really care about.  Throughout my years, I’ve had to grow in this area as well, and I’m so thankful for the friends and mentors that have helped me practice this.

Learn to hold your ideas loosely at arms length — not close to your heart. When the critique and feedback arrows start coming in, you’ll actually see it as something that’s trying to help you, not hurt you.

Of course, this is an invaluable skill to carry forward into the real world! Our employers, supervisors, and college professors should know us by name because we seek them out with questions, ideas, solutions. We want to show them we’re ready to actually DO something with our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s get to work

The world needs productive, creative people that can incorporate the wisdom and knowledge around them and actually put them into action. The world is ready for good action!

Christina Swan

Christina Swan

Christina is a co-founder of Waterloo School and teaches science. Before Waterloo, Christina taught molecular biology, biology, and chemistry at Regents School of Austin for ten years, where she also served as a faculty dean for the Math and Science department for seven of those years and started and directed the Science Club for grammar school students. Prior to that she helped start Providence Hall, a Christian school in Santa Barbara. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular pathology from the University of California, San Diego and worked as a post-doctorate fellow on HIV research at the prestigious Scripps Research Institute in California. Christina graduated with a bachelor’s of science honors degree in Biology from Westmont College. She and her family are members of The Vine church in Austin. Christina and her husband Dennis, who is also a scientist, have a Waterloo 10th grade daughter, Jasmine, and a fourth-grade son, Jonathan.