Collaboration and teamwork are hallmarks of the most effective workplaces, and Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) is preparing its students for success in that environment with a creative interdisciplinary learning program.
Over the last two years, the university has undertaken several initiatives that combine science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with other fields, including business.
The idea is to broaden students’ exposure to other disciplines to better equip them with broad knowledge and experience that will benefit them when they enter the workforce.
Using project-based learning, participating students are challenged to grapple with real business problems like product quality or market growth, and tap into the knowledge and capabilities of all members of the team to research and pose solutions. So a student with a science background, for example, can come away with the knowledge it takes to create a business plan or set up a supply chain.
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And the benefits of the interdisciplinary partnership extend both ways. While science students may gain an understanding of what it takes to pitch a boardroom, business students also get new exposure to science. Once they see the creative side STEM students’ research and product development, they learn those fields aren’t as dry and methodical as many people assume.
The strengths gained through the collaboration of STEM and business students are made to order for today’s business environment – and it has helped SCSU forge partnerships with several companies for graduates trained in physics.
The SCSU initiative will also join philosophy with the university’s Research Center on Values in Emerging Science and Technology. The emphasis there will be on creating greater awareness of the importance of bioethics, and providing a better understanding of both the harms and benefits caused by those conducting STEM research.
The STEM interdisciplinary learning program responds to needs in today’s changing economy, where STEM literacy – even for non-STEM jobs – is an imperative. Equally important is a broad knowledge base and the kind of interdisciplinary practices common to many STEM fields, like computer technology and nanotechnology.
Combined with “soft” skills like a collaborative mindset and good communication, students with the kind of exposure the SCSU program offers will be ahead of the game when they enter the workforce.