Assistant Professor, Architecture + Design  Thinking

Education: Princeton University, Master of Architecture; Fontainebleau School of Arts, Fontainebleau, France; University of Virginia, Bachelor of Science in Architecture

Elgin Cleckley is a designer, educator, and creative director of _mpathic design, a Design Thinking initiative and practice focusing on strategies for empathic, human valued design.

After studying architecture at the University of Virginia and Princeton University, he collaborated with DLR Group (Seattle), MRSA Architects (Chicago), and Baird Sampson Neuert Architects (Toronto) on award-winning civic projects. He was a Muschenheim Fellow at the University of Michigan (1998), also teaching undergraduate studios at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Before joining UVa’s Design Thinking program in 2016, he was the 3D Group Leader and Design Coordinator at the Ontario Science Centre (Toronto), Science Content and Design Department, and Agents of Change Initiative, since 2001.  This work produced award-winning exhibitions and public art with international artists David Rokeby, Michael Awad, Steve Mann, and Stacy Levy.

Elgin teaches Design Thinking studios and seminars at the University of Virginia, also directing the School’s Design Thinking program in Ghana.

Students in my Design thinking courses, studios, and seminars experience: 

• an in-depth concept analysis of empathy 

• methodologies/skills for Designing and Making 

• the Mosaic (phases/mindsets /modes for inclusive Design) 

My Design Thinking pedagogy is a hybrid format that includes: 

• Design Thinking Readings from experts in the field 

• Design Thinking Skill Exercises 

• Real World Projects with actual collaborators ranging from Designers, Design Thinkers and working creatives 

• Real Opportunities for Public Feedback 

• Real World examples from my Design Thinking practice, _mpathic design 

Students experience a unique, interactive learning experience within the School of Architecture and University at large. 


Beyond pedagogy, _mpathic design is an initiative, service platform, and active Design Thinking practice. 


The methodologies of _mpathic design are currently applied in a research seminar of Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s (1875-1950) birth site in New Canton (Buckingham County), Virginia. The site is currently unattended and in a state of disrepair. Woodson was an educator, author, and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History). Students are currently creating designs for the birth site, collaborating with current members of the Buckingham African American Life and Historical Society. The seminar, dedicated to project research, programming, and schematic development directly with stakeholders, defines the meaning of this monument and memorial within existing cultural frameworks in an interdisciplinary student and faculty project team. This is a particularly propitious moment to undertake such a project, particularly in light of the recent incidents in Charlottesville, sparked by controversial and conflicting community ideals regarding history, memory, and memorials. 


_mpathic design provides a service platform to benefit social and cultural change. I actively facilitate this locally and nationally as the faculty advisor for UVa’s NOMAS (National Organization of Minority Architects) Chapter. I am a trustee for the I.D.E.A. (Inclusion, Equity, Diversity, Access) Fund, a participant in the Holland / Ridley African American Scholarship program, Design Futures Student Leadership Forum, School of Architecture Inclusion and Equity Committee, and active with the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. 


_mpathic design, LLC, is a Design Strategy Practice, collaborating with CIMA Consulting of Charlottesville. Our mission statement is to “allow small to medium-sized companies to build consensus, acquire new stakeholder-based perspectives, and drive impact in areas of strategic importance. We do this by executing a design thinking process and experience in DT with partner experience analyzing organizations, identifying trends, and recommending clear strategies to reach goals.” 

Clients such as The Trace, Computers 4 Kids, and Rollins College utilize Design Thinking methodologies to solve complex issues. 

_mpathic design also orchestrates Design Thinking sessions with stakeholders such as the Presidential Precinct’s Global Leadership Forum, UVa European Studies, UVa Career Center Advisory Board, UVa School of Engineering, UVa Global Studies, School of Architecture, and Baker-Butler Elementary. 

Over 25 years of professional Design experience as the 3D Group Leader, Senior Exhibit Designer, Project Coordinator at the Ontario Science Centre, architectural design at firms such as Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, Toronto, and DLR Group, Seattle, fuel the practice to achieve innovative results. 


Mapping, Bicentennial Celebrations, West Oval Room, Rotunda 

In the mindset of Martin,” MLK Celebration exhibition 

Next City, Inspiring Better Cities, “I’m a Black Designer in Charlottesville. This Is What It Feels Like to Walk Through My City”, September 18, 2017, https://nextcity.org/features/view/charlottesville-black-architect-city-tour 

Third Wave Urbanism, Episode 30: Context in Charlottesville w/ Elgin Cleckley, October 2, 2017, https://medium.com/third-wave-urbanism/episode-30-context-in-charlottesville-w-elgin-cleckley-315398d4c952 

Power of Ideas, Travelling Exhibition (60 stop cross-country Canadian tour) Ontario Science Centre, 

Shandong and Soon Chin Ling Science Centers (China), Senior Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

Cohon Family Nature Escape, Senior Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

Forest Lane, Lead Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

AstraZeneca Human Edge, Senior Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

Royal Botanical Gardens, Senior Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

Agents of Change Renovation Project, Ontario Science Centre, Design Coordinator 

Weston Family Innovation Centre, Design Coordinator, Senior Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

Project Art, International Art Competition, Design Coordinator and Senior Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

Space Hall, Lead Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

KidSpark, Design Coordinator, Senior Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

Circus, Design Coordinator, Senior Exhibition Designer, Ontario Science Centre 

Flash Funding Proposal, African-American led Redevelopment in Charlottesville - A "New Vinegar Hill,” Batten School (Social Entrepreneurship), McIntire School of Commerce, School of Architecture, PI: Mahoney, C., Etienne, B., Cleckley, E. 

YEDEA 2017, Service Learning Project in Koforidua, Ghana, Social Entrepreneurship Cup (awarded in two stages) 

Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation, Faculty Global Research with Undergraduates Grant. "Yedea Healthcare: Improving Child and Maternal Healthcare Access Using Design Thinking and Telemedicine,” 

Curry Investment Support Funds (CIS), Curry School of Education and School of Architecture Design Thinking Program, PI: Chiu, J., Wheelock, M., Cleckley, E. 

Mapping, and exhibition of the UVa African American Walking Tour, Jefferson Trust Grant, spring 2017 - current, PI: Cleckley, E; Student Team – Nguyen, M., Velamakanni, S., Tucker, M., Reis, D., Reuss, R. 

Center for Global Health, YEDEA, Faculty Research Grant with Undergraduates 

TELUS Innovator Award, Ontario Science Centre 

Astra Zeneca Human Edge, “Best Exhibit or Show - Large Institution,” Canadian Association of Science Centres 

IMAGINATE, “Best Exhibit or Show - Large Institution,” Canadian Association of Science Centres