Graduate Student Q&A: Award Recipient Spotlight on Serveh Naghshbandi

Our 2019 Vicki Green Graduate Award and Doctoral Studies Outstanding Conference Presentation Award Recipient is Serveh Naghshbandi.

After working as a design practitioner and educator for several years, Serveh decided to pursue her second Master’s degree with a focus in education.

“I wanted to immerse myself in learning, exploration, deep conversations and challenge my assumptions,” says Serveh. There was no better time or place than the Okanagan School of Education as at the time Dr. Susan Crichton was developing Maker Days for educators – an ideal fit for Serveh, who wanted to view the concept of design from a different perspective. Her MA research was on how design thinking and making might be taken up in a K-12 curriculum.

After completing her Master’s she decided to go further and obtain a PhD.  “Sometimes life takes you somewhere that you ultimately realize that there was no better place where you could have chosen for your personal and professional improvement,” says Serveh.


Question and Answer Session with Serveh

What is your research project?

In my doctoral research, I am exploring a participatory approach to design learning spaces for doctoral education considering the distinguished characteristics of doctoral education in its changing time and the contemporary understandings of space in architecture.

The intention of my work is first of all to go back to the basics and to unravel what matters about learning space and its relation with learning. Second, the aim is to create a case for a collaborative design process where students are invited to the process of design which can provide a large set of ideas and opportunities.

What difference do you hope your research will make?

Space cannot be separated from its occupants; changing learning spaces for the better requires understanding students’ needs. Exploring students’ perceptions, experiences, and ideals on their learning spaces is critical to evaluate the excising spaces.

I hope my work will make students’ voice heard and help UBC Okanagan to act flexibly and creatively to adapt learning spaces based on students’ needs.

What advice do you have for future graduate students?

  1. Creating a good relationship with your supervisor and being a member of supportive communities can make a huge difference.

Pursuing a PhD is challenging, but rewarding and transformative. It is not only exploring a question through learning a topic at a deep level, but also learning how to deal with the unknown throughout the process. It might be confusing and messy and there are always new challenges around every corner – but it does not mean that you have to do it alone.

  1. Read constantly, write iteratively, get feedback, and keep track of your progress through any possible way that works for you.

Tracking has helped me to plan ahead and to look at the bigger picture of what I have done and what I have got left to do. Personally, I created a blog and documented all the process including meetings with my supervisor/committee, reading list, notes/sketches, conferences, papers, projects, courses, etc.

  1. Pause whenever you need.
  2. Last but not least, enjoy the process of learning.


Learn more about Serveh’s journey by reading: PhD student’s research looks at finding the problem, not just the solution, or review her Master’s thesis: Identifying secondary school teachers’ understandings and implementations of design thinking within a design-based research Approach.

Leave a Reply