Deaf from the age of ten, Elise has been a design thinker from early on, constantly adapting her environment and its tools to serve her extraordinary abilities.

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A Division I athlete in both soccer and lacrosse, Elise participated in the Olympic Development Program for soccer. In the classroom, she learned how to teach herself from books. At Brown University, Elise was recognized as one of the nation’s elite soccer goalkeepers. She also began to see herself as an advocate for people with non-normative abilities. Upon graduation from Brown, Elise declined an invitation to play professional soccer and entered law school at Northeastern University, where she became involved in gay and lesbian rights, acting as a fellow for the human rights campaign in Washington D.C. Upon completion, and with numerous prestigious awards to her name, Elise practiced as a gender and disability rights litigator, leading numerous hospital access cases. During this time she also began working on an International Disability Rights Treaty at the United Nations. The treaty, the first human rights treaty at the United Nations to be passed in the 21st century, was ratified in 2007. Over 155 countries have become signatories.
Elise has traveled the world, doing development work in Southeast Asia, the Gulf, Africa, and Haiti.

Elise’s deafness has always given her a heightened awareness of how profoundly design shapes the social, emotional and physical environment and this led her to study human-centered design in Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) Social Design program. Premised on the foundational notion that complex social problems require creative problem solving through design, she completed a master’s degree with a thesis that investigated the barriers that exist for individuals with hearing loss in the fabrication technology and design realm. She researched various tools to identify possible adaptations for the deaf user based on the auditory information emitted.

Elise promotes design thinking as fundamental to progressive social change, and is a passionate proponent of applying social impact and human-centered design research to international aid and development work.




Design Thinking and Human Centered Design

How to Embrace Fear

Coping with Multiple Identities (i.e. Deaf and GLBT)

How to Inspire Innovation

Jump Off the Cliff. Now.

Questioning for Innovation


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