Crossing Lines

Exposure to different disciplines creates new and broader perspectives

“At SUNY Cobleskill, we pride ourselves on giving students real-world experiences as part of their education,” says Dr. Susan J. Zimmermann, Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs. “But part of being ready for the real world is having knowledge of subject areas that extend beyond the boundaries of a student’s particular major or field of study.”

To make that sort of expanded academic exposure possible, Sue is helping coordinate the efforts of professors from different disciplines to identify areas that naturally intersect in the working world, even though they not might at first glance seem “compatible.”

By way of example, she cites a recent collaboration that occurred between students majoring in agricultural business and those in graphic design. Professors from the two areas opened some of their classes to students from the other major. As Sue explains, “It served to help agricultural business students learn better communication skills and how to market new products and services creatively, while bringing concepts like project planning, and data collection and analysis to students who would primarily be using their design skills in the business world.”

Bringing this sort of “cross-pollination” to an even higher level, these SUNY Cobleskill students were collaborating in their multi-disciplinary efforts with similarly engaged college students in Mexico. The project centered on creating an international marketing campaign for a fictional new agricultural product. “At the end of the project, our team created a video presentation of their efforts that was then sent to their Mexican counterparts for feedback,” says Sue. “The net result was that students not only from different academic disciplines but from different cultures were able to create something uniquely credible in terms of how well it might actually succeed in the post-college working world.”

This particular exercise was done as a “COIL” project, which stands for Collaborative Online International Learning. But even in situations involving only SUNY Cobleskill students, the cross-disciplinary approach is poised to yield the same kind of positive results. “When you broaden students’ perspectives, improve their critical thinking abilities and enable them to see linkages they might otherwise have missed, you’re preparing them for 21st century careers,” Sue says. “I really don’t think there’s an educational strategy that’s more attuned to how today’s world actually works.”

Feature photo of Courtney Wade standing in front of her Senior Project at the Graphic Design Senior Show taken by Mohamed Baligh ’12, Communications & Marketing New Media Specialist

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