As the Associate Director for Design Thinking for Social Impact and Professor of Practice at the Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University, Lesley Ann Noel teaches design thinking courses for the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Minor and build Taylor’s capacity for design thinking education through facilitation, consultations, and training.
Before joining the Taylor Center, she was part of the 2018-2019 Ocean Design Teaching Fellowship at Stanford University, a cohort of fellows that brought deep experience in design, ocean science, and international policy. The Ocean Design Teaching Fellow program is co-hosted with the Stanford d.school and the Center for Ocean Solutions. In her professional practice, she draws on the fields of design, anthropology, business, and education to create product development and business strategy with stakeholders.
Her research practice is guided by an emancipatory philosophy. She focuses on developing design curriculum for non-traditional audiences and promoting the work of designers outside of Europe and North America.
Noel completed her Ph.D. in Design at North Carolina State University in 2018. Her Ph.D. research focused on design thinking at a rural primary school in Trinidad and Tobago. She also holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of the West Indies and a bacharelado (equivalent to bachelor’s degree) in industrial design from Universidade Federal do Paraná. She is a former Fulbright Scholar and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago.
Due to my interest in making design education more relevant to under-represented audiences, I actively develop my classes, research and projects through an emancipatory and critical lens, seeking to focus on groups of people who may be traditionally excluded from research and design practice. An example of this is my PhD research: “Teaching and Learning Design Thinking through a Critical Lens at a Primary School in Rural Trinidad and Tobago”. An emancipatory theoretical perspective guided the study, one aim of which was to challenge the current primary education paradigm in Trinidad and Tobago and to present a viable alternative that builds on the pedagogical style and content of design classes.
In this study I taught design thinking to elementary school students and observed how they engaged critical thinking skills and empathy. I also explored if a design thinking curriculum applied at a young age could build better awareness of social problems among children or could create a sense of agency among them. The findings indicated that there are many ways to build empathy and critical thinking skills, as well as a sense of empowerment in children as they respond to design problems, even in a rural, low-resourced context. In future research, I plan to conduct longitudinal studies to track the impact of design education on the cognitive and social development of the participants.
LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
Noel, L.-A., Liu, T. L., & Rider, T. R. (2019). Design Thinking and Empowerment of Students in Trinidad and Tobago. Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry, 11(3), 52–66. doi: 10.18733/cpi29503
Leitão, R. M., & Noel, L. M. (2018, December 31). Reflection on Keynote Debate 3: Whose Design? Retrieved from
Noel, L. M. (2018, November 27). Teaching and learning design thinking through a critical lens at a primary school in rural Trinidad and Tobago (Doctoral dissertation, North Carolina State University, 2018).
Noel L & Leitão, R.M. (2018) Editorial: Not Just From the Centre Design Research Society 2018 Catalyst 25 – 28 June 2018, Limerick, Ireland doi: 10.21606/dma.2017.006
Noel L & O.Neill, M (2018) Puerto Rico 2054: Design Pedagogy in a time of crisis Design Research Society 2018 Catalyst 25 – 28 June 2018, Limerick, Ireland
Noel L (2017) Imperatives for Design Education in Places other than Europe or North America! In R. Matteus-Berr Art and Design Education in Times of Change1st Edition pp. 25 – 29 Vienna De Gruyter,
Noel L. M. & Liu, T (2016) Using Design Thinking to create a new education paradigm for K-6 children for higher student engagement and success 2016 Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference 27 – 30 June 2016, Brighton, UK
Noel L. M. (2016) Promoting an emancipatory research paradigm in Design Education and Practice 2016 Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference 27 – 30 June 2016, Brighton, UK
Noel, L. and Lee Poy, M. (2015) Ministry of Design – From Cottage Industry to State Enterprise Conference Proceedings September 2015.
Noel, L. M. (2015). Creating Caribbean Stories Through Design . LearnxDesign The 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researchers, 3, 1118-1131. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.2904.6880.
Noel, Lesley-Ann. (2015) Using Design Strategies Against ‘Wicked Problems’ and to promote Sustainable Development with a focus on St. Vincent. St. Vincent and the Grenadines Country Conference 2015. Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. March 11-12, 2015.
Noel, Lesley-Ann. (2015) Envisioning a Future Design Education in vulnerable economies INSIGHT 2015 – National Institute of Design, Bangalore, India January 23 – 24, 2015.
Noel, Lesley-Ann. (2014) Developing a design curriculum for rural entrepreneurs of the arts and crafts sector in the Eastern Caribbean Paper presented at the 19th DMI: Academic Design Management Conference – “Design Management in an Era of Disruption, Design Management Institute, London September 2 – 4, 2014.
Noel, L. (2012) “Creating a Transnational Experience in Art and Design Education in the Caribbean via Social Media” American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Design Education Conference - “Geographics: design education and the transnational terrain” Hawaii, December 2012
Noel, L & Charles, A. (2012) "Enhancing competitiveness in the Arts and Crafts sector in the OECS through strategy and technical assistance" A Solutions Agenda to Key Competitiveness Challenges - The Caribbean Centre for Competitiveness 1st Caribbean Competitiveness Forum
“Export Development Strategy and Action Plan for the Arts and Crafts Sector of Guyana” Lesley-Ann Noel, February 2017
“Technical Assistance Plan – A Diagnostic review of the OECS-EDU Clients in the Arts and Crafts Secto r” Alicia Charles and Lesley-Ann Noel, February 2011
“Strategic Plan – A Diagnostic review of the OECS-EDU Clients in the Arts and Crafts Sector” Alicia Charles and Lesley-Ann Noel, February 2011
A few of my clients from over the years