Monday, February 21, 2011

Integrated Curriculum

While often seen as merely product development and based upon design it (design), build it (engineering) and sell it (business), the intersection of design, engineering, and business should be a process intersection. To properly realize the synergies we need to see what is common at each stage of skill and knowledge development and teach to the interstitials where innovation occurs.

The following is a flash, interactive that explores some of the linkages among design, engineering, business, and the liberal arts (social science, etc)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Philadelphia College of Design + Engineering + Commerce

Philadelphia University’s College of Design + Engineering + Commerce

Reflecting on our development efforts to date (2008-2011). This is a summary of the current state of conceptual development and rationale for building this new college.


Philadelphia University’s College of Design, Engineering and Commerce (DEC) brings the multiple disciplines of design, engineering, and business into an innovative, integrated educational experience that will prepare students with multidimensional understandings that they will need to be successful in their rapidly evolving fields of choice.

Integrated Thinking for a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) World

Historically, recent graduates followed a trajectory of career trajectory from roles focused on tasks and execution to management roles to holistic and strategic vision. The time frame from task-based skills to management was nearly a decade as was the next career move to strategic leadership.

Many students will enter jobs that did not exist when they began their education. These students will need process-based skills that are portable to future challenges not yet known. Students also need to develop perspectives that allow them to view their futures on a continuum that includes “white spaces” where new fields may emerge as a result of social, political, environmental, economic, and technological forces. A notable example is social media, the emergence of which has led to the transformation and democratization of branding and product development.

Most efforts at the undergraduate level focus on post-skill acquisition collaborations at the junior and senior levels of study. This delay and lack of preparedness results in gaps in knowledge, understanding, and expectations that can lead to, at best, silo coordination of functions as opposed to integration of discipline and discipline processes.


A more holistic view of the rapidly changing environments in which graduates will navigate requires an emphasis on dealing with ambiguity with skills around research, synthesis, problem finding, problem framing, ideation, and iteration.
As a result, the DEC Curriculum has a core framework common to all of the 18 disciplines in the college. The core framework is designed as connective tissue to bridge the gaps and to establish discipline-neutral yet integral language to foster transdisciplinary collaborations.

Students will first take the Design Process + Integrative Thinking course that introduces them to process with an emphasis on dealing with ambiguity, problem finding and framing with a high value placed on prototyping and iteration. The next course in the sequence is Business Models with an emphasis in thinking on frameworks of how organizations operate with a range of context from corporate to non-profit to government entities. This is followed by a course in research methods with an emphasis on the role of ethnography in innovation. The final course in the sequence is systems thinking with an emphasis on natural systems in biomimicry and industrial ecologies in sustainability.

While navigating the core framework students will be grounded in traditional liberal arts study as well as their professional discipline courses. Throughout their university education they will take collaborative courses that link disciplines such as product development, branding, and entrepreneurial thinking. Most projects are ‘real world’ with substantial industry engagement and sponsorship.

More Information:

Slide Share Presentation:

DEC Website:

Early DEC Model of Curriculum Intersections (Flash):


Heather McGowan wrote this summarized article with substantial contributions from the following co-authors at Philadelphia University

Gwynne Keathley, Vice Provost

Steve Spinelli, PhD, President

Randy Swearer, PhD, Provost

DR Widder, Executive Director of Innovation

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


This chart from the US Department of Labor shows the relationship among unemployment (grey dots), recession (pink bars) and notable moments of innovation (orange bubbles and green dots)

Recession and high periods of unemployment coincide with corporations battening down the hatches and focusing on their 'core' products and services today, leaving those unemployed or 'redundant' to build tomorrow. Hence, high periods of entrepreneurship in recession.

Friday, February 20, 2009


The Origins of Twitter

The image on the left, found on flickr is the original concept sketch for twitter. Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone, founders, were inspired to create Twitter after observing traffic patterns and related noise patterns between passing vehicles, cars, and bikes zooming around cities.