What is Design Connect?

Design Connect is a multidisciplinary, student-run, community design organization based at Cornell University.

Design Connect is rooted in collaborative, democratic, and sustainable principles for the advancement of towns in Upstate New York. Every semester, the organization provides practical experience to students through cooperation with local municipalities and non-profit organizations while providing design and planning services for these groups that may not have the resources to hire professionals.

For a list of past and present projects, see the map below:



Mission Statement

Design Connect strives to empower students and citizens by advancing collaborative, democratic, and sustainable design and planning projects in local communities.


Design Connect was formed in the spring of 2008 by two Landscape Architecture students as an initiative of the Design & Planning Group and became an independent student organization in 2010.

Values and Principles

Design Connect has at its heart several values that are self-evident. These values inform the collaborative management structure, shape the multidisciplinary teams, and form the foundation of the participatory approach to community projects. Enumerated, these values are collaboration, service, practical experience, democracy, education, independence, and sustainability. From these values certain operating principles are derived and are as follows:

  • Collaboration: Design Connect will provide students with opportunities to engage in multidisciplinary project teams that will collaborate with partner communities and utilize the support of Cornell faculty and staff.
  • Service: The Design Connect experience is based on volunteerism. Student teams share Cornell’s wealth of resources with Upstate communities in the spirit of Cornell’s land grant mission.
  • Practical Experience: Participation in Design Connect engages students in the experience of professional-like practice while exposing them to the inherent realities and challenges of public process and teamwork.
  • Democracy: Design Connect strives to give voice to the voiceless and provide all participants with a means of expression and involvement in those decisions that affect them.
  • Education: Design Connect works to provide a rigorous academic experience through open faculty critique sessions, the provision of a faculty advisor for each team, and ongoing collaborative review among student teams.
  • Independence: Design Connect exists by the will of and is led by its student participants, in both administrative and project team roles. Faculty advisors function in a consulting role.
  • Sustainability: Sustainability informs every aspect of the administration and operation of Design Connect, from the adoption of integrated management practices in internal operations to advocacy for sustainable solutions in each community project.