2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 273-3
Presentation Time: 8:50 AM


SZYMANSKI, David W., Department of Natural & Applied Sciences, Bentley University, 175 Forest Street, Waltham, MA 02452, OCHES, Eric A., Department of Natural & Applied Sciences, Bentley University, 175 Forest St, Waltham, MA 02452, FLETCHER, Donna, Department of Finance, Bentley University, 175 Forest St., Waltham, MA 02452, SIPE, Timothy W., Department of Biology, Franklin & Marshall College, P.O. Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17604-3003, NESTERUK, Jeffrey, Dept. of Business, Organizations, and Society, Franklin & Marshall College, P.O. Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17604-3003, TURNER, Sheldon P., Triton College, 2000 Fifth Ave., River Grove, IL 60171, MOONEY, Christine H., Department of Management, Northern Illiinois University, 1425 West Lincoln Hwy., DeKalb, IL 60115 and IVERSON, Ellen, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, dszymanski@bentley.edu

Meeting the challenges of sustainability while ensuring economic security and social parity in an increasingly resource-constrained global marketplace requires a scientifically literate public. But a strong STEM workforce and STEM literacy alone are not enough to address problems like water scarcity, energy demand, and global climate change. “Wicked” problems like climate change are rooted inherently complex natural and human systems. They have no unique solution and even more importantly, cannot be uniquely formulated by any single discipline. In a world driven by commerce, these challenges require reshaping the way we teach all undergraduates – STEM and non-STEM majors alike – to think critically about their role in commerce, technology, and civic engagement. Instilling a sense of this complexity requires teaching students systems thinking and requires faculty to engage in transdisciplinary approaches to curriculum development.

But achieving curricular integration among STEM, liberal arts and business disciplines requires a transformation in higher education, what Shulman (2011) describes as “institutional intentionality, not parallel play” among the academic domains. Such institutional change begins when faculty engage in the transdisciplinary education. Interdisciplinary studies must bridge disciplinary boundaries because the complex problems they focus on – as epitomized by sustainability – involve diverse interfaces among human and natural systems. Transdisciplinarity goes beyond even successful interdisciplinary integration to imagine new ways of approaching and understanding complex systems.

We describe a model for moving toward curricular fusion of STEM, liberal arts and business disciplines through collaborative development and assessment of transdisciplinary undergraduate sustainability modules. Faculty across different disciplines and different institutions work together to design modules that allow them to teach disciplinary concepts in the context of a transdisciplinary problem. We present key qualities of sustainability themes to engender participation of faculty among business, STEM, humanities, and other disciplines, as well as goals for student learning and institutional change.