Holly Thorsen is the Associate Director of Professional Education at Cooper. A veteran of the improv stage, Holly specializes in helping individuals and teams build creative confidence through interactive training programs and leadership coaching to create lasting change.

This is the first of a five-part series where Holly shares her knowledge of design education, educational philosophy, and the importance of shifting company culture to one of creative leadership and feedback.


An educational philosophy is at the core of any exceptional learning experience. It cements the central themes of classwork and provides a foundation and filter for choosing examples, building activities, and applying concepts to real-world practice.

As we craft new courses and programs at Cooper Professional Education, I would like to take a moment to share the philosophy in which those experiences are rooted.

Playful. The literature on human learning psychology suggests that we learn incredibly well through play. Play leads to greater engagement, and it encourages participants to take more risks, explore different ideas, and test out new behaviors. It provides people with a safe environment for stepping outside of their comfort zone.

Practical. At Cooper, we live in the real world of design and making things. When your teachers practice design and design leadership day in and day out, nothing is theoretical. Stakeholder alignment isn’t just a concept; we’ve done it countless times with our clients. Based on our experience, we can help students anticipate the ways stakeholders may react and the kinds of politics that arise as strategies come to life with clients or within one’s own organization.

Purposeful. People only have so much time in their day. The time they choose to share with us deserves our thoughtful intentions and care. Our purpose is to advance a vision of more creative leadership in the world. Everything we do is designed to build this capacity within the people, teams and organizations we touch.


Interested in learning more about Cooper Professional Education and our philosophies around design and education? Read more on our curriculum and class schedules here.