Our process

The Office of University Initiatives helps shape ASU through strategic innovation and continuous evolution.

With the support of the Office of the President, we work outside of ASU’s departments and academic units to drive the continuous evolution of the university. We ask big questions, research opportunities for innovation and advance demonstration projects of the New American University model through our design cycle, using ASU's Design Aspirations as a guide.

We connect and collaborate with all aspects of the university, allowing us to be responsive to university needs and integrate bold ideas to tackle any kind of project. Our process is not time-bound; ideas may take months or years to design, incubate and transition.

Driving questions

Design cycle


Advancing ASU as a New American University

ASU President, Dr. Michael Crow asked, “Do you replicate what exists, or do you design what you really need?” For the last decade, ASU has been re-designing an institution for the demands of the 21st century. We have set out to lead the revolution in U.S. higher education by putting forth a model for a New American University, focused on excellence, access and impact in everything it does; measured not by who we exclude, but rather by who we include and how they succeed; engaged in research for the public good; and designed for the social, economic, and cultural vitality of the surrounding communities.

Newsweek recognized these efforts as “one of the most radical redesigns in higher learning.” In fall 2016, U.S News and World Report recognized ASU as the #1 most innovative institution in the country for the second straight year. Come help us continue to transform the higher education landscape.

ASU charter

Driving questions

Our work begins by questioning the status quo and critically analyzing the world around us to find opportunities for innovation and improvement.

Below are some of the driving questions* that have shaped our impact at ASU:

  • Why are quality higher educational opportunities limited based on geographical and financial circumstances?
  • Why are complex challenges tackled in silos?
  • Why do scholarship programs invest in individuals when the most pressing societal challenges require complex collaborations?
  • Why do some students wait until they graduate to make positive change in the world?
  • Why have we stopped taking our imagination seriously?

*Our "Why, What If, How" methodology is inspired by Warren Berger's A More Beautiful Question

Design cycle

UI utilizes an iterative design process to simultaneously advance multiple projects across multiple design stages. An initiative’s design life cycle varies from months to years based on the project’s complexity, our staff capacity, and the desired pace and readiness of our partners.

  1. Identify Opportunity: Our projects originate from several sources including a moonshot idea from President Crow, an introduction to a potential partner or a news article.
  2. Research: We observe current practices and talk to experts in order to understand the problem we are trying to solve.
  3. Design: Based on our research, we design a feasible solution. We utilize a user-centered design process and request feedback from as many experts and allies as possible.
  4. Incubate: We pilot new projects to demonstrate their feasibility and potential impact. We evaluate success, troubleshoot and adapt the projects according to feedback.
  5. Transition: After demonstrating impact, we transition ownership from UI to a new or established entity to ensure a project’s sustainability and growth. We remain committed to our partners and often continue to advise or support projects beyond the incubation stage.


With a team of staff and student research analysts, we gather and analyze information to guide strategy and project development. We explore emerging issues and trends, social change, best practices and potential partners from private, public or social sectors. The research team vets new ideas using a rigorous process that involves:

  • Identifying research needs
  • Exploring research needs in-depth to reach topical saturation
  • Analyzing topics while looking for partnership opportunities and synergies
  • Connecting initiatives and research topics in an actionable manner

Student strategic research analysts are the backbone of the research team, consistently producing high quality research. UI hires high-achieving, intellectually curious undergraduate and graduate students who enjoy working in a fast-paced, collaborative environment. Recent research analyst alumni have continued to a variety of exciting jobs upon graduation from ASU.

Meet the student research team

Our Process