Design Thinking Education Center of San Diego

Urban Discovery Academy Announces the

Development of the Design Thinking Education Center in Downtown San Diego, CA (DTEC/SD)

The Urban Discovery Design Thinking Education Initiative is a Three-phase Project to Advance Design Thinking to Solve Complex Problems, Develop Two New Design Thinking Based Schools, and Host the Design Thinking Incubation Lab to Promote Urban Innovations.

SAN DIEGO, CA, July 20, 2018 – The team that successfully launched the Urban Discovery Academy in East Village San Diego today announced a plan to develop the Design Thinking Education Center of San Diego (DTEC/SD). This new innovative education center that will focus on the tenets of design thinking, will be located at 1400 Park Boulevard in the center of the downtown education corridor and at the north end of the Innovation, Design, Education, and the Arts (I.D.E.A.) District. The group has successfully secured the parcel through a 99-year ground lease with the San Diego Community College District.

DTEC/SD will span nearly two acres and have three integrated facilities: a Design Thinking Incubation Lab to house adult and community learning to solve complex social problems; a new T/K-8 Urban Discovery Academy school; and a facility that will be a permanent home to the developing IDEATE (Innovation, Design, Education, Technology, Entrepreneurship) High Academy that is currently located in downtown San Diego.

DTEC/SD will address the growing demand to have resources to engage in design thinking, educate students to become creative innovators and provide a center for higher education, corporations, and government agencies to interact and address complex problems associated with urban settings.

Shawn T. Loescher, chief executive officer of Urban Discovery, stated that this is “an announcement that brings tremendous hope and opportunity to advance educational achievements for our students and provide a space for the community to use design thinking to advance complex social, economic, and infrastructure problems associated with urban environments.”

Design thinking, also known as human-centered design, is an in-demand skill set that is seen as critical to a vibrant innovation economy.  At its core, design thinking is fundamentally user-centric, creative problem solving.  Instead of drumming up demand and support for products, services, initiatives, and solutions, design-thinking focuses on identifying the needs of stakeholders through contextual empathy building and evidence-based research.

“To survive and succeed in today’s complex world…being able to see the world through their customers’ eyes and hearts is the secret to success.” (Forbes Magazine, Design Thinking – The Key to Successful Innovation, Feb 2018).

Increasingly, design thinking is considered a competitive advantage both for companies and communities. IBM sees design thinking as central to the company’s success and has said it was looking to add 1,000 designers to its payroll. Other technology companies such as SAP and Intuit have used design thinking to deliver new products and improve their bottom lines. Cities like Helsinki are hiring design officers to help imagine solutions to persistent civic challenges.

Board president of Urban Discovery Academy schools and designer, MaeLin Levine, stated that “on behalf of the board, we are thrilled at this opportunity to make a significant contribution to the East Village and Downtown San Diego, while providing an educational center that will have a lasting impact for our greater regional community and our growing innovation economy.”

Juan-Pablo Mariscal, president of the Mar Group, said “as a land owner and developer in downtown San Diego, I am thrilled to welcome and support Urban Discovery’s efforts to bring quality schools of choice into the East Village neighborhood, which is critical to the sustainability and vibrancy of our community.”

Michéle Morris, the associate director of the UC San Diego Design Lab, said the addition of DTEC/SD will help cement San Diego’s growing reputation as a leading hub for design-driven innovation.

“The mindset and skill set of human-centered design are critical to successful innovation today,” Morris said. “DTEC/SD will be a critical component in developing a pipeline of students well versed in the practice and importance of design thinking and will invigorate our local economy now and for years to come.”

The construction stages of the project will begin with the relocation of the IDEATE High Academy (UDA’s existing high school program) to an existing structure on January 1, 2019. Subsequent project phases will incorporate the full 2-acre property and include the new DTEC/SD buildings that will take place between 2020-2022.

DTEC/SD will be issuing an invitation to collaborate in the development of the facility to institutions that have a vested interest in advancing innovative education, urban and regional issues.


Design Thinking

Design thinking, also known as human-centered design, is an in-demand skill set that is seen as critical to a vibrant innovation economy.  At its core, design thinking is fundamentally user-centric, creative problem solving.  Instead of drumming up demand and support for products, services, initiatives, and solutions, design-thinking focuses on identifying the needs of stakeholders through contextual empathy building and evidence-based research.

Urban Discovery

Since 2008, Urban Discovery is an innovative design, social, and educational board of trustees that currently oversees the Urban Discovery Academy, IDEATE High Academy, and associated development projects. The schools teach and endorse the Design-Thinking methodology. The purpose of the group is to advance important social and educational issues. More information about the schools can be found at

Shawn T. Loescher

Mr. Loescher is the chief executive officer of Urban Discovery Academy/IDEATE High and a doctoral candidate in leadership and innovation. He has extensive professional experience and has served as a teacher, academy director, principal, district director, district executive director/chief of staff. Mr. Loescher has extensive experience on college and career readiness, urban education, and economic development and has appeared as an expert in think tank groups and before the California State Education Committee. He was selected as the CEO of Urban Discovery in 2018 with the purpose of advancing design thinking initiatives to further student achievement and provide a community setting to address complex urban issues.

MaeLin Levine

MaeLin Levine is a partner in the national award-winning design firm, Visual Asylum, located in downtown San Diego. Ms. Levine has extensive experience in leading nonprofit organizations and was awarded the prestigious AIGA Fellow Award in 2008. Ms. Levine currently serves as a Board of Director on the Downtown San Diego Partnership and was a member of the Mayoral appointed Downtown Education Task Force. A passionate advocate for innovative education, Ms. Levine was the lead petitioner/founder for Urban Discovery Academy’s charter petition and sits as president of the Board of Trustees and currently has one child currently enrolled in UDA/ID8.


MaeLin Levine, AIGA Fellow
Partner, Visual Asylum
Adjunct Professor, SDCC

Edward Abeyta, PhD
UCSD Extension
Associate Dean, Community Engagement and Director, Pre-College Programs

Esther LaPorta
Development Consultant

Paul Ryan
Hewlett: Packard Enterprise Company

Ann Hart, EdD
Education Consultant
Retired Administrator

Ron Miriello, AIGA Fellow
Director, Miriello Grafico
brand strategist, creative director, speaker, artist, design-traveler

Andrea N. Myers, Esq.
Seltzer, Caplan, McMahon, Vitek

Shawn T. Loescher

Chloe Medina 

Megan Buie