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Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I feel I am blogging too much!!! Roger encouraged me to state this openly. It is kind of funny, but there is some way in which I think if I blog, others wont. Well…doing it anyway.
Neal and I are considering a project to creatively develop a supply-chain and distribution systems for gleaning crops in the county. This project incorporates the (second) harvest of food and the distribution of this food to food-banks or other locations that service the poor in our community.
I met with Neal earlier this week and we determined that while our desire to collaborate is strong, it seems structurally unlikely this quarter. This is a bit discouraging for me as I want to begin learning how to work with faculty in other disciplines, but I guess I must learn something else first. I must learn something about what is keeping us from collaboration here at Cal Poly. Below are some of the structural issues (per my observation) along with what I assume were the initial positive intent.

1) Students can’t get credit for the work they do with student teams from other majors. I believe the positive intent of this is something about maintaining quality in the educational system. Because we want to make sure our students are getting what they need or expect, we develop curriculum and courses that we believe will best prepare them. This is a noble goal, but the unintended consequence is that it is difficult for our students to deviate from the prescribed courses, even if this deviation will be a better educational experience. It seems we have reduced the risk for the students, but are also reducing the potential quality or richness of their educational experience.
2) To incorporate any innovation into the educational experience, we have to plan months (or years ahead). Again I think the positive intent is that we supply students with a predicable quality education. Though in order to change we need “Planned Innovation,” maybe an oxymoron. Neal and I find that in order to attract senior project students we will need to introduce the potential problem to them almost 3 months ahead of the beginning of the 6 month senior project. That is at least a 9 months lead-time for solutions; not a very agile system.
3) We are already so busy. Since Faculty at Cal Poly teach 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) courses per quarter, it is very difficult to find the extra time needed to plan and execute theses inter-disciplinary projects. As a teaching university our focus in on just that.

1 comment:

  1. Just a thought about time and planning and constraints. I have moved toward an approach of "long arcs" where I have a number of projects that are all in various stages of development. I cannot count on anything happening at any particular time but given the various levels of interrelationships, I know that they are reinforcing in key ways. I look for opportunities (the right kind) to push a project forward in some particular way. It makes formal planning hard but it does force me to have ongoing reassessment of goals and objectives.

    So, my motivation in working with Liz is not so much that we will get a particular thing done at a particular time (obviously, Liz has harder constraints in her class) but rather that my work with her is an opportunity to work on making concrete some ideas that I have wanted to work on but can't do on my own at this point. I will devote time to the project and, hopefully, will be ready to spring at that key opportune point. I guess it is all about the nonlinearities of project development.