Enhance classroom collaboration between colleges

Emily Severe

Across every industry, UT graduates will put their degrees to work alongside people with vastly different experiences and skills. They will gain exposure to new perspectives and learn from practitioners of diverse professions as they work to design a product, compose a strategy or implement a solution.

To better prepare students for a collaborative professional career after graduation, UT should create more opportunities for students in different colleges to work together on assignments for class credit.

As a business student, my exposure is somewhat limited to the world contained within the College of Business Administration and Graduate School of Business buildings. For example, in one of my business communications courses, we worked on a capstone project that required us to solve an urban planning problem with the formation of a new school in Austin. Without input from students studying architecture, engineering, government or education — we were unable to deliver a truly viable solution.

Student organizations, university-sanctioned competitions and intramural events all allow Longhorns from different disciplines to come together to share their talents and interests. However, extracurricular involvement is not sufficient to address the lack of opportunities to collaborate in academic contexts. The opportunity to work with students from other majors should be introduced in upper-division courses by individual professors and at the departmental level, especially in fields where communication between a diverse set of team members is key to success.

UT should enhance the collaborative

element of the undergraduate experience with course structures that require students to reach out to budding experts in fields outside of their own. For example, a graduate student in the Butler School of Music designed a six-string violin with the help of a mechanical engineering senior and a makerspace in the Fine Arts Library. Each of these students drew on their major-specific expertise to employ university resources and create a truly innovative instrument. Such teamwork could be similarly incorporated into undergraduate courses.

There are several ways to implement this kind of experiential learning in practice. Professors could encourage pupils to seek advice or guidance from students in other majors for projects with interdisciplinary subject matter — like a project about urban planning or healthcare that, in reality, would require the input of professionals from a range of fields. This type of collaboration is especially important for business students who focus on case-based learning to implement class concepts in real-world scenarios.

When we enter as freshmen, we take introductory classes that are often composed of a wide variety of students, but we lose this diversity as we progress to upper-division courses specific to the tracks we’ve chosen within our majors. To ensure that upperclassmen benefit from collaborative experiences that enhance creative thinking and problem solving, the University should expand the availability of opportunities to work across colleges within these high level courses, especially where long-term projects are concerned.

When they leave campus, graduates will have to work with teams of professionals from a range of fields. UT must better prepare students for their entrance to the real world.

Severe is a business honors and finance junior from Round Rock. Follow her on Twitter @emilysevere.