A Better World by Design (ABWxD) is a three-day conference at Brown and RISD that cultivates a global community of socially conscious and passionate innovators. Each year, ABWxD attracts about 700 students and professionals working in a wide range of disciplines from around the region, country, and globe. The 2014 theme was Wayfinding. The conference is planned and executed entirely by the 20-person Planning Committee of Brown and RISD students.
Check out the website here.

We welcomed a record 835 people to the 2014 conference.
This included people from 148 different zip codes, and students from 50+ schools in 14 states.


The Planning Committee is usually led by two co-chairs, and comprised of four different teams: Content, Finance, Communications, and Logistics. The Content Team plans the conference content. After working with the rest of the committee to brainstorm topics and set intentions for the year, they reach out to presenters and help them develop their presentations. The Finance Team does all the fundraising for the committee, and works with the committee to execute sponsorship agreements. PR, Branding, and Web make up the Communications Team, and they work together to produce all conference messaging and get people at our events. The Logistics Team executes all the conference events, including the two evening social events and all meals, and organizes the conference volunteers. The 2015 committee will also include a fifth Community Engagement Team, which will work to more intentionally connect ABWxD with on-campus and local Providence initiatives.

Committee Chair

October 2013 - December 2014

I was the sole Committee Chair for the 2014 conferenceThe primary job of the Chair is to make sure the committee is on top of its tasks, but just as important as that to me was making sure the team functioned well and had a great time doing it. The Chair facilitates communication between teams, coordinates work on team projects, and plans group meetings and events. In addition, as Chair I managed the $100,000 annual budget, maintained relationships with our community partners, and oversaw projects such as PR strategy, sponsor recruitment and fundraising, brand design, content selection, and conference registration.

I was fortunate enough to have the most enthusiastic, talented, generous, caring, fun committee imaginable. Chairing was an exhausting, stressful, challenging job. But it was also the most rewarding work experience I have ever had, and I am very proud of what I accomplished in that year.

  • Formalized the budget process for the first time
  • Formalized our record-keeping, scheduleregistration, and data analysis processes for the first time
  • Raised $17,500 and secured other in-kind sponsorships in addition to what the finance team secured
  • Wrote 100+ pages in a Role Guide for future teams to refer to in their planning
  • Worked with local Providence design leaders as the only student on the planning committee of the first DESIGN WEEK RI
  • Reduced excess spending by $23,000 for 2015
  • Started the Community Engagement Team for 2015 to more intentionally connect ABWxD with on-campus and local Providence initiatives
  • Redesigned the content selection process for 2015 to more effectively communicate the team’s vision for the year

Participant Experience Coordinator

November 2011 - October 2013

Before Chairing in 2014, I was the Participant Experience Coordinator on the Planning Committee for the 2012 and 2013 conferences.
As Participant Experience Coordinator, my job was to review all aspects of the conference to plan and ensure the best experience for all participants (presenters, attendees, volunteers, students, professionals, etc.). My other tasks included organizing the conference volunteer effort and Student Hosting Program, negotiating hotel discounts for presenters, recruiting sponsors for the gift bags, and planning the conference Lounge and Energizer Break activities. I got to work with every team on many different aspects of the conference planning.

From my work in that position, I am most proud of what I did to develop and expand the volunteer program. Each year, we need extra help from other Brown and RISD students with setting up conference events, ushering speaker events, giving directions, and checking attendees in at registration, etc.. Before I joined the team, there had been no established method of recruiting on campus, sorting through applications, scheduling shifts, or training volunteers before the conference. I worked with the committee to determine early on what we needed from volunteers, and then re-wrote the application to determine more easily what skills each volunteer could contribute. I also re-formatted the shift scheduling process to be easier for volunteers to understand as well as easier for the committee to read and use. With these changes, I was able to grow the program from 100 volunteers to 160, in order to offer opportunities for involvement to more students on campus.