Shift FAQ

Frequently asked questions about Shift.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking focuses on solving ‘wicked problems’ by using a human-centered methodology to develop empathy for people at the centre of the challenge, effectively define challenges people face, collect meaningful qualitative data, iterate alternative design options, and build and iterate prototype solutions.

What project will I be working on?

Shift Program participants work on health-focused projects that have real-world application and impact. Projects are defined before the program begins in consultation with stakeholders, experts, and faculty.  You will be expected to work with a small project team of 4 to 5 participants and be engaged in interviewing end-users and stakeholders, synthesizing qualitative data from research, and designing and testing new ideas.

How are project teams formed?

Project teams are diverse. They are formed with participants from a range of disciplines, industries, roles, and levels of experience. Your application and interview will be used to determine which project team is your best fit.

How many hours am I expected to commit to this course? 

Live classroom sessions occur bi-weekly.  Attendance at these sessions is mandatory as you will be working with your team on your project.  These sessions are supplemented with offline readings, team meetings, and interviews with project stakeholders. Participants should expect to spend approximately 2-3 hours a week on Shift Program work outside of the live session. Supplementary material, readings, and videos will be suggested for further study.

What can I expect from the live sessions?

The 6 facilitated live sessions run for about 3 hours. These sessions are highly interactive and do not follow a typical “lecture” style. During this time you will be working directly on your project with your team. These sessions are mandatory. 

What tools will we be using in this course?

You will use industry standard tools for communication and collaboration in this course. All in-course communications will occur through SLACK.  Live video calls will use ZOOM.  Participants will be introduced to MURAL, a visual collaboration and design tool that will include templates and tools to guide you through the process.

What is the timeline for applications and acceptance?

Applications are accepted, and interviews scheduled, during an admission window. Interviews are conducted by Health Leadership Academy staff and faculty through a video conference chat. The decision of the selection committee will be issued directly to the applicant as soon as possible following the interview. Once accepted into the program, you will make your program payment.** As the start date of the program approaches, candidates will receive a detailed welcome package, including an agenda,  preparatory materials for review and completion including pre-program assessments. ** rates are based on current status as a student or professional

Is financial assistance available for this program?

McMaster University students may qualify for financial support through university scholarships or bursaries or aid and awards.

All Applicants are encouraged to contact our Program Administrator, Laura Smith at to discuss their individual situation.

What are some tips to structure my application for successful acceptance?

  • Speak authentically
  • Demonstrate why this program will serve you and what unique contribution you will bring to the program.

What is the difference between the Shift, Pathfinder, and Emerging Leaders Programs?

All HLA programs have a health leadership focus.

Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is designed to be an intensive, 1-week virtual leadership “boot camp.” ELP is “teams-centric,” meaning the majority of the exercises you do are done in groups to strengthen your ability to lead teams and focus on building relationships with team members while developing your skills. The intensity of the program is designed to help you understand your unique leadership style. 

Pathfinder Program is much more individualistic and focuses more on personal and professional growth. It is a virtual leadership program stretched over 8 weeks. You can apply what you learn over the course of 8 weeks to your work. It is designed to help you master your leadership skills and put what you are learning into practice within a small group.

Shift Program introduces design thinking as a method through which health leaders can innovate, solve existing problems, and imagine new health futures. It is a virtual leadership program that takes place over 12 weeks with 6 live sessions. Like ELP, Shift has a teams focus, but like Pathfinder, it is stretched over a longer time frame allowing for more reflection as you work to solve a current health challenge.