IDEA student group celebrating West Michigan Design Week

Deb Tolsma, former manager of global learning and development at Steelcase.
Deb Tolsma, former manager of global learning and development at Steelcase.
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A Grand Valley student group dedicated to promoting innovation, entrepreneurship and social change through design thinking, will celebrate West Michigan Design Week with a special presentation April 2.

The event, hosted by the InterDisciplinary Entrepreneurship Alliance (IDEA) group, will spotlight Deb Tolsma, former manager of global learning and development at Steelcase. Tolsma’s presentation will illustrate how design thinking, collaboration and new problem solving strategies are used in the business world and why they are important to develop in students.

IDEA presents Deb Tolsma
Thursday, April 2 at 6 p.m.
Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, room 123
301 Michigan Street NE, Grand Rapids

The event is free and open to the public.

During her 15 years at Steelcase, Tolsma functioned as an instructional designer and learning specialist, and managed the company’s global processes and learning technologies, all while maintaining a special focus on design thinking.

Since its inception in January, IDEA has been encouraging students to solve problems through interdisciplinary collaboration by providing various events and workshops.

Kathryn Christopher, senior product design and manufacturing engineering major, said IDEA formed after two of the group’s members, who are also University Innovation Fellows, felt Grand Valley could benefit from implementing more design thinking practices. The University Innovation Fellowship encourages innovation and entrepreneurship at schools across the country.

Christopher added that as the IDEA group grows, students will take real world problems from Grand Valley, as well as the West Michigan community, and utilize design thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset to solve them.

“Our end goal is to help create and grow start-ups and nonprofit companies formed right here by Grand Valley students,” Christopher said. “We realized if more start-ups, non-profits and positive innovations were going to come out of Grand Valley in the future, we needed to create a place for students to learn these skills that are not taught in the classroom and give them a place to collaborate with students who they wouldn’t ordinarily get to interact with.”

For more information about IDEA, visit