Seeking creative solutions to complex problems

A US-based university refocuses its efforts on ethics, social responsibility, service and sustainability as part of its issue-centered learning courses. One of their programs strongly encourages students to draw on knowledge and experience from all backgrounds when addressing complex issues, as well as promoting a transdisciplinary approach amongst faculty members and postgraduate students. 

Bentley University’s pedagogy directs considerable emphasis towards student engagement dominated by discussion and service-learning projects. Electives on responsible management education are integrated at both undergraduate and graduate levels. At MBA level, all students must complete a course in leadership, ethics and corporate responsibilities – while its PhD students similarly study ethics and corporate social responsibility.

In 2003 Bentley University founded the Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility (BAESR) in order to “amplify and extend the work of autonomous centers and initiatives on campus, supporting and encouraging greater awareness of, respect for and commitment to ethics, service and civic engagement, social responsibility and sustainability in faculty research, curricula and campus culture.”

With a focus on research as well as teaching, Bentley is extending its principles into campus life, working with external organizations – both academic and professional – in order to pursue their goal of civic engagement and CSR. Bentley further launched a service-learning center that aims to promote the development of socially responsible working professionals, and to assist community partners in serving the human needs and interests of their constituencies. Students carry out a service project for the benefit of the community, enabling them to put what they learn into practice whilst strengthening a sense of social responsibility.

In 2009, Bentley also piloted a Complex Problems / Creative Solutions  (CP/CS) program that encouraged students to draw on their knowledge and experience from all backgrounds when solving problems, while promoting the same transdisciplinary approach to faculty members and postgraduate students undertaking research.

CP/CS enabled students to focus on solving complex problems creatively by examining the unintended consequences of consumerism from the perspective of multiple disciplines. CP/CS students explored what we buy, why we buy, how we buy, what we do with our purchased products and services – as well as exploring individual universal consequences of these transactions.

The university also offers students the possibility to complete their service-learning abroad in partnership with the Quinn School of Business at University College Dublin (Ireland), Bond University (Australia), University of Manchester (UK), the Mmofra Trom Project (Ghana) and the Lorenzo de‘Medici Institute (Italy).

Filed in: Issue-centered learning, Open access between academia and practice, Reflective practice and fieldwork
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