Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving, Undergraduate Certificate

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Provost Office

Students will learn to apply innovative thinking and the design process to a range of disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and multi-disciplinary needs, issues, and problems.  In the process, they will obtain the skills to initiate and direct research and ideation, to prototype and test, and to deliver the message/story/content of their solution(s) both independently and as leaders and collaborators.


This plan will not be available to new students after Summer 2023

  • To receive an undergraduate certificate (at least 15 units) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject matter areas with a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0.

    Please be aware that federal financial aid is not available for some certificates, if the certificate is pursued and completed as a stand-alone certificate (i.e., not completed concurrently with a degree program). See the "Details" tab for additional information.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Students may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.

Minimum Units for Completion 15

Purpose Statement

This certificate engages students from across disciplines to apply innovating thinking theory and the design process to a diverse range of disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and multi-disciplinary issues and problems. Students will employ the design process to investigate, conceptualize, synthesize, and generate relevant solutions to issues and problems. They will obtain the skills to initiate and direct research and ideation; prototype and test solutions; and be able to articulately and strategically deliver the message/story/content of their project. Throughout their experience, students will consistently be empowered as leaders and collaborators, which will serve them in whatever future directions they choose.

Student Learning Outcomes

Discover, Empathize, Explore & Define: Understand and use human experience as the basis to develop and evaluate designs/solutions.

  • Employ knowledge of human need and context to define design problems and questions
  • Uncover and understand personal and organizational assumptions and biases around a specified focal issue or opportunity
  • Understand human needs, wants and desires as they relate to disciplinary and inter-disciplinary issues and problems.
  • Appreciate the value of unique points of view, and incorporate unique views into the creative process
  • Recognize and incorporate diverse social and cultural perspectives
  • Integrate an interdisciplinary approach to increase and incorporate global and multicultural concepts and perspectives.
  • Identify and characterize the complex nature of problems and questions associated with human issues and interactions across a broad range of scales (disciplines, cultures,
  • Articulate an understanding of identified problems and questions within the theoretical and historical contexts of varying disciplinary frameworks
  • Research, plan and run needs assessments, clarifying discrepancies between current and desired conditions.  Perform design research that contributes to the definition and solution of design problems.
  • Identify, collect, and analyze necessary information using appropriate technologies and analytical techniques as they relate to the identified problem or question
  • Apply appropriate research methodologies to frame emerging needs, including observational, psychographic, and ethnographic data.
  • Select and interpret results from scientific research and integrate quantitative and qualitative findings into a design project
 Ideate, Prototype & Create: Identify appropriate methods of design inquiry and problem solving processes to produce creative solutions to identified problems and questions
  • Use innovative processes and design methodologies to generate multiple solutions to design problems, synthesize solutions, and develop conceptually strong projects (including brainstorming, mapping, sketches, and synthesis/testing of many ideas)
  • Recognize sparks and blocks to creativity
  • Resolve competing values in design solutions
  • Generate a prototype that is a quick and cheap model containing only available materials
 Test & Discover: Produce designs that address human experiences, needs, and incorporate multiple contexts
  • Evaluate design problems in terms of the solution’s fit in relation to: usefulness, usability, desirability, sustainability, feasibility, viability and so on.
  • Value the ethical, ecological, economic, and cultural impacts of their work
  • Examine how the solution or design affects secondary ethical, scientific, environmental, societal, economic, cultural issues encircling the primary issue or problem
  • Justify and defend the proposed design or planning solution within the context of aesthetic, social, political, economic, environmental conditions
  • Communicate the entire problem solving process or method of inquiry in written, oral, and graphic ways using appropriate media
  • Articulately and strategically speak about their work
  • Contribute to and broaden dialogues with an open mind and positive approach

Certificate Requirements
  • This certificate may only be pursued and completed concurrently with a degree program. This certificate is not available as a stand-alone certificate.

  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.