Tackling complexity in large-scale problems

Solving complex, large-scale problems requires creativity and innovation; strategic and entrepreneurial thinking; and enlightened management and organizational practices. Three colleges in the US are collaborating to provide an issue-based learning sustainability certificate program that empowers our future leaders to make use of the skills, tools, and concepts from the liberal arts, business, and engineering in order to address large environmental challenges. 

Finding solutions to big problems is no easy task – but the rewards are correspondingly large. The right solutions to our most pressing issues can transform entire industries, change the way we live and greatly better people’s lives.

Wellesley, Olin and Babson Colleges provide an elective course about how big problems in business, society, and the environment may be solved. Their case-based course introduces students to the basic concepts and tools that business, engineering, and the liberal arts can bring to prospective sustainability solutions.

The course provides an opportunity for students to synthesize the work from an introductory course and elective courses to apply their knowledge of sustainability to a specific problem or issue of interest to an identified community. Groups of three to five students representing more than one school work on a semester-long project of their choosing that focuses on understanding and providing solutions for a specific environmental problem.

The Sustainability Certificate Program is a good example of how a collaborative initiative can help address complex real-world problems in an interdisciplinary manner. Further, the course creates more responsible leaders by providing students with multiple perspectives, issue-centred learning methods, as well as an altogether more balanced outlook on global sustainability issues.

Filed in: Accompanying leaders in their transformation, Institutions as role models, Issue-centered learning
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