The Taking on Domestic Violence crew.

A group of BYU-Idaho students with the collective goal of educating others about preventing domestic violence realized their conviction in an unexpected way—being assigned to a group project.

The class, FDSCI212 Innovation and Design Thinking, encourages students to think outside the box to come up with solutions for real world problems. 

"We were given the topic of domestic violence and tasked with going through the design thinking process with that topic," said Kammy Shepherd, a communication student and co-founder of the nonprofit Taking on Domestic Violence. "As we were talking in our groups and going through this process, we realized that domestic violence was a much bigger problem than people were willing to talk about or believe. We realized that it just kept getting swept under the rug."

The design thinking process Shepherd mentioned is the core of FDSCI212 and includes five steps-empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Groups work throughout the semester on several projects with these steps as their guide. 

Tahari Julander, associate dean of Interdisciplinary Studies and an instructor for FDSCI212, knows that this process gets the students involved more passionately and frequently. 

"Our approach through Design Thinking is different enough from their previous methods that it catches them off guard and inspires them to engage in the process," Julander said. "We find that this process empowers many of our students and they take on outside causes that are dear to them."

This empowerment is precisely what inspired Shepherd and her group to take action. They realized early in their project that one of the keys to preventing domestic violence was educating people about healthy relationships. 

"We want to teach people that they are worth it, empower the youth and teach them that they are worth more than an abusive relationship," Shepherd said.  "The core of what we do is try to teach people they deserve a better and happy life."

Those goals were made possible when members of the group visited a sexual assault counselor in Idaho Falls during their project, to get a better idea of how to combat the issue of domestic violence. The counselor was so excited about the prospects of what these students were doing, she gave them $1,000 to get started right then. 

"When my groupmates came to class the next day and told me, I realized we had a responsibility to try and fill that need," Shepherd said. "That was a great moment for our team. I remember thinking, 'I have to do this now. This could be my career if I choose it to be right now.'"

Through that experience and many others, Shepherd and members of her team started the nonprofit organization Taking on Domestic Violence-also known as Taking On DV. This 501C3 organization is now in the process of developing curriculum and spreading awareness through social media. 

Julander says that FDSCI212 allows students to realize their potential and prepare for their careers. 

"They realize that they can become a change agent and leave a positive impact in the world," Julander said. "It is really rewarding to see the skills learned in the classroom immediately applied to the real world."

Shepherd and her group members have taken what they learned in FDSCI212 and applied to a real-world effort to combat domestic violence. Their efforts have also magnified their educational pursuits. 

"These are not just assignments I get an A in anymore-they are applying to my life and to what I want to do," Shepherd said. "We call that going from strategic learning to metacognitive learning. Metacognitive learning involves becoming self-aware of what you're learning. I feel like this project has given me a lot more purpose, which is helping me with my education."

The principles of design thinking Shepherd and her group learned in FDSCI212 have taught them about the importance of being open to new ideas.

"This class taught us that we have the ability to do it, no idea is stupid," Shepherd said. "The class taught us that we can achieve things if we are dedicated enough and determined enough."  

The creation of Taking on Domestic Violence and their efforts are direct results of that dedication and determination, and while Shepherd recognizes the long road ahead, she is proud of the work her and her group has done.  

"We might not have had any large, tangible success in the eyes of the public, but we know we are making progress," Shepherd said.