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We're taking our own medicine and feeling great

  Our graduates will be thoughtful thinkers and makers who remain curious, create iteratively and collaboratively, and seek constructive thoughtful feedback. This is what the faculty fellows have been practicing while designing the Purdue Polytechnic Incubator's curriculum. They are designing in iterations with checkpoints during which we exhibit what we have to each other and to select audiences and seek input and feedback.

The first design review took place on April 1; department heads, curriculum committees, chairs, and academic advisors were invited. As a result of this review, we held an accelerated series of meetings (led primarily by Bob Herrick) with departments and advisors. Through these meetings, we gained a deeper understanding of existing curricula and the diversity of dependencies, and were able to better explain what we are doing to the departments and the advisors.

The second design review took the form of a three-day workshop in mid-May. We invited Mark Somerville, Jonathan Stolk, and Rob Martello, three faculty from Olin College who participated in Olin's own curriculum design when they started 10 years ago. They provided us with feedback, and they shared with us many insights and processes which we have been putting into practice since.

Olin College's Mark Somerville, Jon Stolk, and Rob Martello facilitate a workshop with Purdue Polytech faculty fellowsOlin College's Mark Somerville, Jon Stolk, and Rob Martello facilitate a workshop with Purdue Polytech faculty fellows
Olin College faculty Mark Somerville, Jon Stolk, and Rob Martello (standing, left photo) lead a workshop at Purdue with faculty fellows, helping to focus our curriculum design.

The Olin team identified the following areas of strength in the effort:

  • High level of enthusiasm from all faculty.
  • A bold proposal with high potential.
  • High alignment: "We were impressed by the extent to which Purdue Polytech faculty demonstrate a strong focus on high level, broad goals." Accompanying this is a high level agreement about values.
  • Collaboration across Purdue. "An effort like this requires a high level of connection with other parts of the institution. We were very pleased to hear that there are efforts and successes in connecting and working with the registrar and with other departments."
  • Balance: "The team has a balance of 'big picture' thinkers and folks who are good at dealing with the nuts-and-bolts."

Olin College's Rob Martello and Mark SomervilleOlin College's Mark Somerville, Jon Stolk, and Rob Martello facilitate a workshop with Purdue Polytech faculty fellows
Left: Rob Martello and Mark Somerville, Olin College faculty, in spirited discussion. Right: Purdue Polytech faculty fellows Mark Shaurette, Kirk Alter, Tom Hacker, and Rich Dionne working on the first-semester curriculum.

They also gave us a number of things to which we need to pay close attention. These include:

  • Culture shift: We must perseverance with the collaboration across Purdue to facilitate the process.
  • Breaking free from the backward mapping: This will take place as soon as we have an independent degree, which is in the works.
  • Resources: They found our plans to be very ambitious, and they warned us about the resources required to realize them (especially space and faculty time).

The faculty have been putting in practice the tools and processes suggested and have made significant process as a result. We are now ready for the next design review which will take place on June 25. We are all looking forward to it, knowing that we will all gain useful and thoughtful advice. 

  1. design review
  2. Design Thinking

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