Multidisciplinary Experiences

Learning Through Multidisciplinary Experiences

In 2007, the Provost’s Multidisciplinary Learning and Team Teaching (MLTT) initiative and the College of Engineering (CoE) funded what became the Multidisciplinary Design (MD) Program. It was dedicated to expanding experiential, project-based learning principally through significant hands-on design activities. Since then it has served as a pathfinder to develop more educationally significant opportunities that provide students with (1) end-to-end real-world multidisciplinary experiences, principally centered around the creation of products, processes, and/or solutions, (2) a framework to understand system-level complexity, (3) skill practice in independent learning and adaptability while illustrating its importance, as well as, (4) skill practice in effective communication across multidisciplinary boundaries. All of these opportunities are closely aligned to the 3rd Century educational vision.

Today, the MD Program has significant reach across campus with a variety of workshops and seminars (800+ students per year), academic coursework (275+ students per year) and a minor in Multidisciplinary Design (150+ students per year). The MDP Minor is accepted in the Stamps School of Art & Design; Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Ross School of Business; the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA); and is currently being approved by the School of Music, Theater and Dance. The MDP has further joint programming with the Ford School of Public Policy, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, the School of Information, the School of Social Work, and the School of Public Health.

Our experience in cooperating with colleges/departments across the campus has illustrated the practical reality organizational differences between academic units such as existing degree program approaches, financial models, faculty/student time constraints, and even cultural differences that can prevent all but the most motivated students from participating. However, we believe we can use the MD Program experience, along with reaching out to current and additional partners across the University, to develop a plan and execute it. Specifically, this effort seeks:

  1. to develop, with collaboration from the Provost’s Office and interested schools/colleges, a multi- pronged initiative to identify and break-down barriers to multidisciplinary initiatives, and
  2. to develop meaningful 1-semester multidisciplinary experiential pilot courses and activities spanning multiple schools/colleges/departments.

Project Team:

Harvey Bell, Clinical Professor of Engineering Practice; Co-Director, Multidisciplinary Design Program
Brian Gilchrist, Professor, College of Engineering; Co-Director, Multidisciplinary Design Program
Gail Hohner, Managing Director, Multidisciplinary Design Program
Albert Shih, Professor, College of Engineering
Max Shtein, Associate Professor, College of Engineering
Alan Taub, Professor, College of Engineering