Students at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business often work on projects in teams. From class assignments to experiential learning partnerships with nonprofits and businesses, they hammer out solutions to real-world challenges and gain valuable hands-on experience. To expand on those team-based exercises, the college's Leadership Center has taken the initiative to facilitate more interdisciplinary student projects in order to better prepare students to collaborate in their future careers with people from various educational backgrounds.
"Building on the college's mission to provide students with an integrated education, we expanded to include projects in partnership with other disciplines," explained Instructor Ron Bramhall, who coordinates the Leadership Center with instructors Chuck Kalnbach, Anne Forrestel, and Ron Severson. To launch that effort, the center partnered with the UO Department of Computer and Information Science (CIS), inviting CIS students and a faculty member to participate in the Leadership in Action Practicum. The practicum partners undergraduates with nonprofits to solve business challenges, develop marketing strategies, and pursue funding opportunities.
"This is the first multidisciplinary project in the course," said Bramhall. "The computer science students are learning from the business students and vice versa. That dynamic is the reason we wanted to create cross-departmental teams and projects."
"Working with students from the CIS department has been a great learning experience," added accounting student Colleen Watson '06. "The CIS students brought a lot of different dynamics to our team. I have learned so much about managing a team with a true variety of members. I know that this skill will be applicable in many areas of my future life." Watson is one of the business undergraduates working with CIS students on a project for Mount Pisgah Arboretum, a local nonprofit that manages a 209-acre natural area for education, recreation, and research.
Senior Instructor of Computer Science Michael Hennessy, who served as an adviser in the Leadership in Action Practicum, additionally noted that computer science students benefit from the course. "The project is a definite plus for CIS students because computer science is evolving in a very interdisciplinary fashion," he said.
The collaboration, Bramhall concluded, is a great illustration of how the Leadership Center is playing an active role in developing new learning opportunities for our students. The center hopes to generate more interdisciplinary projects with other departments in the future.