We are an innovation incubator committed to
the future design of learning experience through participatory civics, culture and digital media.

Columbia College Chicago aims to be an “animating force in our communities, in the city of Chicago, and in the larger world beyond.” The Convergence Design Lab, serving as a hub of innovation at the School of Media Arts, helps to make this promise a reality by fostering deep linkages between the college and the city of Chicago: its schools, neighborhoods, cultural organizations and civic networks.

We actively work with the leading change agents in the field including Chicago Hive Network, Collective Shift, LRNG:Chi, and Generation All. Our work has impacted dozens of local organizations, hundreds of teachers, and thousands of Chicago youth both in and out of school.

The strategic action plan for Columbia College Chicago, “Achieving Our Greatness,” serves as the driving force of Convergence Design Lab as we carry out a commitment to:

  • Enhance equity and inclusion for diverse learners through the creation of safe, supporting learning spaces in schools and online.
  • Support educators in designing and implementing 21st century curriculum to prepare students for active participation in today’s globally connected world.
  • Cultivate rich experiential learning opportunities to engage individuals in real-world challenges where they can make a difference.
  • Engage disparate communities in innovative partnerships through connected learning endeavors that bridge boundaries and broaden perspectives.

Cultivating the Columbia College Chicago Community

We are a key player in the connected learning movement working to strengthen education ecosystems and opportunities for diverse learners.

Such work begins at home with Columbia College Chicago by:

Collaborating with faculty to lead applied research projects in civic media and learning innovation.

Connecting faculty, courses and students to city partners and schools for rich experiential learning and community engagement.

Offering advanced students paid internships as research and design assistants.

Faculty Fellows

From 2014 to 2015, thirteen Columbia College Chicago faculty served as Convergence Academies Faculty Fellows. The select awardees engaged in collaborative projects with teachers at Tilden High School and Morrill Elementary. The fellowships were designed to help Columbia faculty advance creative practice, research, curriculum development and/or pedagogy that centered on authentic and experiential learning in a digitally networked context.

Designing Dorms, Creating Connections

Faculty Fellow Susan Stirling invited her Columbia College Chicago Art + Design students enrolled in her Intro to Visual Design Studies course to take part in an opportunity she was given as a professional graphic designer to research and design student-centered college dormitories for Gensler, a global architecture and design firm. As part of the project, she had her students interview Tilden High School seniors to understand the issues they faced prior to graduating and their ideas for an ideal college living environment. The interaction made a strong impression on the college students and the insights they gained were apparent in their final projects, which they presented to the Tilden students for feedback at the end of the semester. Through the course, students went beyond their comfort zones and the borders of their classroom to better understand the needs of their community and to solve a real-world problem.

Discovery through Documentary at the Digital Atelier

Ashley Kennedy, an adjunct instructor in Columbia College Chicago’s Television Dept. wanted students in her Documentary Production and Editing course to have the chance to work with a real-world client. Filling such a role, Convergence partnered with two student production groups in the class who produced professional documentaries about the Digital Atelier, an innovative studio makerspace Convergence created at Tilden High School in the high need community of Back of the Yards in Chicago. The students visited Tilden throughout the semester to film. They received support from Convergence staff member, Luke Sequeira, who worked as a digital media mentor in the space after school. These documentaries are now presented nationally at conferences, on social media venues and at events as evidence of the impact of makerspaces on cognitive development, STEAM-literacies and social/emotional learning.

This video was truly the most rewarding project I have ever done. I am grateful to have been warmly welcomed into the Digital Atelier and I feel so lucky to have been able to capture some of the magic that they routinely make in this space.