Developing Student Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Leadership Capacity to Address Wicked Problems

Tuesday 3:00pm-4:15pm Burge Union Forum C/D
Round Table Discussion


Dave Gosselin, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Deana Pennington, University of Texas at El Paso
This roundtable will address one of the biggest challenges for higher education, that is, training students to create effective interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary linkages to address the many "wicked problems" facing society. The discussion will focus on co-creating a list of challenges in providing such training, and sharing strategies for overcoming those challenges.

As a society, we face many challenges related to the long-term sustainability and resilience of Earth's life-support system upon which we depend. Finding workable solutions to the grand challenges requires more than just first-rate science, it requires an understanding of the human and social dimensions of the challenge including economics, public policy ethics and values, and equity issues. Adding the human and social dimension into the equation elevates these grand challenges to what have become known as wicked problems. The ability to work in a team synthesizing data, information, and perspectives across diverse disciplinary and professional divides is at the heart of addressing wicked problems problems. The National Research Council (2015) report on enhancing the effectiveness of team science called for better understanding of how to achieve such outcomes. Among the seven key challenges are difficulties achieving deep knowledge integration across the boundaries of respective disciplines, enabling team members to combine their unique knowledge and skills to address a shared research problem. Innovative approaches to leading and managing knowledge integration are needed, and these approaches need to be embedded in student education.

We will facilitate the discussion using a method developed by the NSF-funded EMBeRS (Employing Model-Based Reasoning for Socio-environmental Synthesis) project for creating more effective interdisciplinary teams (Pennington et al. 2016). This approach employs experiential learning combined with model based reasoning and is based on theories of how people learn and reason during complex problem solving.