By Randy Bolerjack, WSU Everett
Engineering, communication and business students are working together at WSU Everett under a merged coursework project launched this spring by three faculty members exploring greater opportunities for interdisciplinary studies.
“In the real world, engineers and business people and communicators work together,” said Jacob Murray, program coordinator for electrical engineering at WSU Everett. “These projects have real‑life output and the business and communication students can support these teams — not as subordinates, but as peers.”
Seniors in electrical engineering have spent the academic year designing and building various projects, sponsored by, overseen and delivered to local industry. During the second semester, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication students will develop communication plans for their assigned project while Carson College of Business students will create business strategies.
The seven engineering projects range from developing a new battery system for the OceanGate submersible and developing metrology instrumentation for Fluke, to using coral to take carbon out of the atmosphere for Boeing, or creating an interactive museum exhibit to inspire children to pursue STEM careers.
Lucrezia Cuen Paxson teaches COM400, communicating science and technology. “As we continue into the fourth industrial revolution in the midst of a digital explosion, we’re discovering that in the workplace, more people who were not in subfields related to science and technology are being forced into them,” she told students recently. “Those relationships and interactions are no longer optional, they are mandatory.”
The valuable exposure students receive to peers in other fields is designed to help them better understand how they can work and interact together across disciplines, which should advance their ability to succeed, according to Cuen Paxson. Each team member brings perspectives couched in their experience within their unique field.
Students of Soobin Seo, an assistant professor in the Carson College of Business, will plan specific business strategies for the teams to ensure the project, instrument or client is both viable and sustainable when reaching the marketplace. Seo teaches MRKT360, introduction to marketing.
The students will still operate and be graded within their separate courses, but will meet a minimum number of times as a team to learn about the skillset each brings, develop strategies related to their project and complete their respective assignments.
Student reactions were strong, including anticipation about learning from an expanded form of teamwork, to anxiety about shared responsibilities. Murray noted the experience will embrace a growth mindset in which challenges, and even failure, are part of the learning process.
“This interdisciplinary process exemplifies the innovative faculty at WSU Everett and how nimble our campus is in preparing students to meet the demands of the modern workforce,” Chancellor Paul Pitre said. “This level of scientific inquiry and entrepreneurship is nurtured in every one of our programs to provide our students a transformative experience.”