From September, 2019 to September, 2021 I was a graduate student at the Design Impact Engineering program at Stanford University’s d.school. The Design Impact Engineering program is an established program in Design with a focus on the Design Thinking methodology, which was pioneered at Stanford University. The curriculum is diverse, collaborative, and inter-disciplinary, and culminates in a year-long graduate capstone project. The stated goal of the program is to prepare interdisciplinary designers to use technology and design to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
Combining technology and design in unique ways in order to have a positive impact on people’s lives is also the reason why I came to Stanford University. Prior to my graduate studies, I had designed and built an educational app that makes it faster, easier, and less expensive to learn road traffic rules. I also spent three years as a lecturer of Brand Design and Portfolio Design at the Art Academy of Latvia, and several years prior to that helping Baltic brands find a way to tell their unique stories and reach their potential through design. For my next steps, I wanted to learn from the best in academia and industry in order to have an even greater impact in the future.
Krišjānis Mazurs is a product designer and brand strategist. He is a recent graduate from Stanford d.school’s graduate program in Design Impact, where he was also the Head Teaching Assistant for two classes in the Mechanical Engineering department. He is passionate about combining design and technology to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
His experience includes founding and leading brand strategy and design studios in Latvia, working as lecturer at the Art Academy of Latvia, and building an educational app that makes it faster, easier, and less expensive to learn road traffic rules.
In his spare time—of which there does not seem to be too much nowadays—he enjoys riding motorcycles, taking care of his plants, collecting music that gets better the more you listen to it, and thinking about the necessary conditions for a meaningful life.
While I was fortunate to be accepted to graduate programs in Design at Stanford University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and interview at MIT, my journey to graduate school in general and Stanford in particular has not been particularly easy. For one, I had to make the difficult decision to turn down the Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship from the United States Embassy in Latvia due to it not being able to support my studies at any of the aforementioned institutions. In addition, in order to be able to finance my studies at Stanford University, I had to sell my shares in the two strategy and design studios I had co-founded, renovate and sell the apartment that I inherited from my parents, and take out the maximum student loan that was offered by Latvia at the time.
During my time at Stanford University, I completed 59 graduate units towards my degree in Design Impact Engineering from the Mechanical Engineering department. My studies spanned a wide range of interdisciplinary subjects, including but not limited to classes such as Graduate Design Research Techniques, Human Values & Innovation in Design, Computers, Ethics, and Public Policy, and others across the Stanford University schools of Engineering, Computer Science, Business, Philosophy, and others. I have also been fortunate to develop personal and professional relationships with several professors and mentors from these experiences.
In addition to my classwork, I also completed a year-long graduate design capstone project, which focused on designing and building a compact and highly functional food product for people following a therapeutic ketogenic diet. Throughout this experience, I was able to connect with multiple extraordinary organizations and individuals across entrepreneurship, food, design, and venture capital, several of which have become personal mentors. My work was also favorably received by the distinguished Stanford faculty, who remain mentors to me in this project.
In order to be able to not just enroll, but also continue and complete my studies, I also took on several jobs with Stanford University and its faculty. In addition to my own studies, soon after joining the program I took on the job of Head Teaching Assistant for ME120 History and Ethics of Design with professor Christina Wodtke. This included a double shift—or 20 hours—every week helping students and professor Wodtke navigate the class. Soon after, I became the Head Teaching assistant for another class, ME101 Visual Thinking—Stanford’s longest-running product design class—where I worked a double-shift for six consecutive quarters, making me the longest-tenured teaching assistant in the class’s history. Finally, I also accepted the invitation from my academic advisor and executive director of my program, professor Bill Burnett, to teach the Design Thinking methodology to partner organizations to the program.
Throughout this experience, I was able to connect with multiple extraordinary organizations and individuals across entrepreneurship, food, design, and venture capital, several of which have become personal mentors. My work was also favorably received by the distinguished Stanford faculty, who remain mentors to me in this project.
However, even with the aforementioned efforts, graduating from Stanford University would still have been outside of my reach, had it not been for the generous support of the Jānis Grundmanis graduate fellowship, for which I remain very grateful. Not only did it provide for the last mile resources to cover my studies, it also introduced me to other Baltic fellows in the area, and exposed me to Stanford Libraries’ Estonian and Baltic Collection.
Recipient of 2020–2021 Jānis Grundmanis Postgraduate Fellowship
The AABS is now accepting proposals for Birnitis, Grundmanis, Saltups, Emerging Scholars, and Dissertation grants and fellowships for academic year 2022-2023.
Deadline: February 1, 2022