Kate Gleason College of Engineering
Kate Gleason College of Engineering
1 - 6 Credits
Are you passionate about addressing the socially-complex, wicked problems of our time? This interdisciplinary, active-learning course will lay the groundwork for students who want to participate in future place-based community-engaged research, development or design projects that build on community strengths and address community determined challenges. Through literature reviews, discussions, cases study analysis, role plays, debates, reflective writing, and visits with experienced community practitioners, we will explore the larger context of the systems within which we live and how others have engaged in efforts to improve community wellbeing both locally and globally. We will strive for a more nuanced understanding of our world and its power dynamics from various perspectives. We will investigate the context in which community and economic development has traditionally occurred, how technology has been involved, and the effects of projects and activities on the “beneficiaries”. We will investigate best practices including mindsets, worldviews, skills, processes, and tools for community-driven positive change. Finally we will use all our learnings to develop our own evaluation framework and apply it to a current community project. This course incorporates humanities and social science approaches and counts for general education requirements.
This course helps students develop a system of holistic thinking about engineering pursuits which includes the natural environment, humans as individuals, economics, culture, institutions, policies, and civil society. Topics include research, design, dissemination, and evaluation techniques of the Human Centered Design Methodology (also called Design Thinking), Systems Practice tools for understanding complex problems, comparison of competing economic viewpoints, and evaluation of project case studies for triple bottom line sustainability. The course will include an extensive community engaged experiential learning component with a community partner in the city of Rochester which requires periodic travel to the partner’s site for interviews and activities. The course project is intended to lead to ideas that can be continued into social impact design capstone projects for implementation.
We face grand challenges in the 21st century that will test our collective intelligence and resourcefulness — global change, new diseases, the need for access to clean water, technological developments that are changing us and our relation to the world. We have the opportunity to transform our future through innovation and leadership, but we need to improve our critical thinking, innovate towards possible solutions, and work across disciplines to meet these common challenges. This course is therefore open to all students with the curiosity, imagination, and commitment to meet such challenges. We need engineers, scientists, public policy specialists, and humanists — individuals from every field of study and endeavor –– to contribute to global efforts to meet these challenges. One of the most important challenges of our time — and one identified by the National Academy of Engineers as among fourteen Grand Challenges— is that of providing access to clean water to people across the globe. This course focuses on this grand challenge though interdisciplinary links between the liberal arts and engineering. Students will work in teams to analyze the scope of the clean water problem, examine real case studies, trouble shoot observed problems, and propose alternative solutions. Given the social and cultural contexts within which the need for clean water access arises, this course encourages students to think holistically about sustainable solutions rather than narrowly about the technical quick fix.