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An Interdisciplinary Approach to Pertinent Issues: The key to efficient, powerful, and lasting solutions

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Student leaders that help create an inclusive environment can play a key role in getting a campus involved in interdisciplinary innovation. A good student leader will incorporate education, industry and society into his or her endeavours to bring about change. Sean Farrell is a great example of a student who exemplifies the qualities it takes to inspire change on a campus. Sean has worked with another fellow to start an “Idea Lab” on his campus and is currently working on designing a study abroad curriculum that will bring together students of many backgrounds in order to help a developing country. Sean has offered some great advice for students who seek to follow in his footsteps and make student led changes that will unite a campus. Following, are some topics that will aide students in developing strong leadership skills and help develop a new perspective on the value of interdisciplinary programs.


In order to be considered interdisciplinary, being able to communicate and pass ideas along to everyone is very key to be successful. There needs to be a group of leaders on campus that help bring multiple branches of disciplines together while also reaching out to faculty.

Learning about various topics in our higher education helps us gain multiple view points. Using gained knowledge, we are able to connect with other students and faculty to create successful entrepreneurial work. Leaving people out will hinder our advancement as well as the advancement of the project and block out other ideas that maybe better( hindering potential accomplishments).  

Using the industry to start or continue entrepreneurial work helps with the networking and financial aspects. When you have leadership skills and communication skills, you can go out and find others to help prosper your project. Interdisciplinary approach is very important when taking to and maintaining a relationship with the industry because the person who you are communicating in might not have the same background as you and keeping an open mind while trying to understand where they come from is key.

Employ leadership skills towards approaching people who are interested in your project in a humble and objective manner. Often times, it will take several meetings and dialogs to reach a goal or even get them interested. Initiate by developing a relationship with cooperation and support that will backup objectives and ideas in the premature phases. This leads to smoother shifts towards interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial work that is successful. 

Benefits of Using an Interdisciplinary Approach:

Often times as as a student leader you can hit a ceiling on what you can accomplish on your own. Sean Farrell made it evident that at this point you will need assistance from other people. Different groups of people can play a different roles in this process, that is the importance of the interdisciplinary aspect. Industry can offer you assistance in a financial manner it can also give you valuable real world experience that can be vital to your success as a leader. Education might be needed assistance from professors or school administrators, this can make or break your project. Society involvement can be used to make changes in your community by involving local leaders and committees. This can also be the use of media and local news. The combination of all these different disciplines should be a sure way for you to become a successful leader.

Creating an Inclusive Creative Space:

Creating an Inclusive Creative Space is important in enhancing interdisciplinary education. Sean was inspired by the initiatives the former UIFs on his campus took to create the Idea Lab.The idea Lab is a physical representation of interdisciplinary education. It is open to all majors and disciplines. Today’s society values interdisciplinary education because the world around us is intertwined and complex. The Idea Lab is home for innovative ideas that are the results of the collaborative creative thinking of people from different backgrounds and perspectives.

However creating the Idea Lab was not as welcome on his campus as anticipated. As challenges are part of the “HOW TO” process, Sean explains how to overcome those challenges. He emphasizes on the power of people and MOBILIZING RESOURCES. Change makers should never hesitate to reach out to as many influential figures on campus as possible. He talked to the Dean, the president and to the faculty. They first had the Idea Lab in the library before successfully taking the project to its next steps in its own space.

How to create an Idea Lab ? The answer is dettermination to make it happen! Take the lead and never underestimate the power of the First Followers !!

Utilizing Resources, Industry, Education and Society

Helping students become strong leaders may sound like a straightforward task. However, without the right resources and tools this can become difficult. One of the valuable lessons Sean gave in his interview was that confidence is key. It is important to feel comfortable reaching out to other student leaders and faculty members. As Sean noticed when developing a study abroad program at his school, speaking to other students and faculty can brings in new ideas and even point out flaws in current ideas. It is vital that leaders have the ability to connect with different groups of people because many times doing so can open up not only more ideas, but also more resources. For example, on Sean’s campus, they created the Idea Lab. However, instead of placing the Idea Lab in an area where only a certain group of students would go, they put the Idea Lab in a centralized location, the library. This emphasizes the importance of having the physical resources needed for creativity and innovation, but also the importance of involving different groups of people.

Other vital resources exist off campus. Every student leader on campus will have to interact with administration, but what role do industries and societies play? Most often, students trying to make change on campus run into complications causing them to either reach out to other resources or loose momentum on their project. Allowing companies to get involved gives students alternative resources and encouragement to continue being a strong innovative leader. Along with time and support, industries can also provide funding and networking opportunities. Two things that many employers look for in prospective employees are leadership capabilities and real world experience. Getting industries involved with student leaders can open up many opportunities in both of these areas. 


Below is a link to a video playback of the interview conducted with Sean Farrell.

= Written by: Christine Maida, Caylin Wiley, Krusha Shah, Nathan Craft, Syrine Bessaad