Creating a collaborative culture between schools
at IIT downtown campus
Julia Shao, Yu-Chieh Ho, Apoorva Shenoy, Brenna Berlin, Jenni Schneiderman, Tirdad Kiamanesh
Tomoko Ichikawa ( 12 weeks workshop )
Overview of the project
In the Fall of 2016, IIT Institute of Design moved to a new space at 565 West Adams Street in Chicago and is now co-located with two prior occupants, Chicago-Kent School of Law and Stuart School of Business. As these three constituents occupy one building, there will be a need for all parties to adjust to the new arrangement, as well as an opportunity to engage in a cultural exchange that would optimally result in mutual understanding and collaboration. The Communication Design Workshop project sat at the intersection of communication media/technologies, messages, spatial retrofitting, and cultural exchange.
“ If you do little things enough, you change the culture. If you try to do big things, you fight culture. ”
— IIT Professor
Why is interdisciplinary collaboration important right now?
Economic Complexity Perspective
“Ultimately, the complexity of an economy is related to the multiplicity of useful knowledge embedded in it . For a complex society to exist, and to sustain itself, people who know about design, marketing, finance, technology, human resource management, operations, and trade law must be able to interact and combine their knowledge to make products. These same products cannot be made in societies that are missing parts of this capability set. Economic complexity, therefore, is expressed in the composition of a country’s productive output and reflects the structures that emerge to hold and combine knowledge.” (Hausmann)
What do people from IIT’s Downtown Campus say about collaboration and its importance?
" Everybody has their own little view of the world… when you lift the blinders and have that epiphany when you are working with somebody. When they realize there is this whole new part of the universe that they haven’t considered before. And the look on their face! It is amazing what happens when you get exposed! ”
“Firm believer that students who get involved in interdisciplinary activities will have a better time getting a job - or starting a business than students who just stay in one field.”
“We don’t want our students to be silo-ed and only work with [students from the same background]. They need to be able to work with others. It simulates the real world environment.”
Tech as a value-add
“New firms are operating all in the cloud which offers $ savings, a smaller footprint, and mobility of employees.”
IIT Graduate Student
“The giant umbrella is that we are a technical university - we should be thinking about these different domains.”
“If we could get them (students) a little bit of technical training, they could have so many more opportunities open to them in the market of so-called nontraditional jobs, but the non-traditional jobs are really good and quite good jobs. They call them JD advantage because they are jobs that they might give to somebody who went here (Kent) or business school or something like that but those types of JD advantage jobs are largely focused on better delivering legal services whether that’s at the enterprise level or retail level.”
The student perspective
“My pull to IIT’s Kent School of Law was that it is another engineering school, that there is a focus on patent law and there are lots of techies.”
IIT Graduate Student
“It would be cool to see a class on technology in law firms, ongoing issues (not just foundational), and more speculative law.”
IIT Graduate Student
Organizational culture change
“If you do little things enough, you change the culture. If you try to do big things, you fight culture.”
“A plan can look great. Getting anything real in the world is the real thing. Even if people shoot it through with holes. Where there was nothing now there is something. The notion of materiality - making something manifest in the world. Now someone else can try to make it better.”
How might this project serve as a microcosm of the increasingly abundant cross-cultural situations in the real world?
In the Fall of 2016, IIT Institute of Design moved to a new space at 565 West Adams Street in Chicago and is now co-located with two prior occupants, Chicago Kent School of Law and Stuart School of Business.
As these three constituents occupy one building, there will be a need for all parties to adjust to the new arrangement, as well as an opportunity to engage in the cultural exchange that would optimally result in mutual understanding and collaboration.
The Communication Design Workshop project sat at the intersection of communication media/technologies, messages, spatial retrofitting, and cultural exchange. How might this project serve as a microcosm of the increasingly abundant cross-cultural situations in the real world?
The scope of the research covered the Downtown Campus (DTC) on Adams, not IIT’s Mies Campus. There are surely things occurring at main campus that we were not able to explore. Our initial Intent is to help structure understanding, not answer specific questions.
Our research was designed to understand how people currently think about and engage in collaboration with IIT’s DTC (Institute of Design, Kent School of Law, and Stuart School of Business).
In addition to an overall communication audit of the entire DTC and various analogous research, we were able to complete 25 in-person interviews and received nine online survey responses.
Types of collaboration
Teaching students from different backgrounds
Casual vs. formal
Translating into different languages, such as from verbal to visual
Peer reviews of work
Institute of Law, Science, and Tech
Access to Justice authorship
Infusing entrepreneurship across the curriculum via the Coleman FellowshipJoint Executive Leadership offerings
Dual degree/Joint degree programs
Students as initiators of collaboration
As part of our initiative to tap into the beginning phases of collaboration among the students, faculty, and staff within DTC, we implemented a few quick and easy opportunities.
Bake Sale - Immerse to the culture of the campus
Food Drive - Immerse to the culture of the campus
InterMix - event to explain design to students of Kent low school
Dividers - prototype dividers to improve privacy for ID students in the studio to focus better.
4 main barriers : Physical and Digital Space, Administrative Support, Program Structure, Human Factors
to INDS Collaboration at the Downtown Campus
Upon analyzing the data from 25 stakeholder interviews, four clear themes emerged about barriers to INDS at the Downtown Campus. We will be able to circumvent and reduce the identified structural and behavioral barriers through a deeper understanding of where they are coming from.
Physical and Digital Space
The cafeteria, lobby, and library are the only current physical shared spaces at the DTC, in large part due to the order of tenants entering and assimilating to the pre-existing building structure. Limited spaces, both physical and digital, have been designed to encourage informal encounters and a building-wide culture of collaboration. Research participants spoke about the importance of intentionally designing spaces and platforms to structurally facilitate the frequency of encounters, conversations, and relationship building across DTC building inhabitants.
Shared physical space encourages casual interactions and relationship building.
Intentionally designed collaborative spaces influence engagement and culture.
Each school has a unique digital architecture and relationship to digital space.
Some administrative supports are necessary to acculturate interdisciplinary collaboration systematically. Awareness of opportunities, lack of budget, and communication infrastructure all inhibit collaborative behavior from becoming commonplace at the DTC and beyond.
There isn’t a communication channel for DTC other than IIT Today.
Professors are expected to take on management responsibilities that are not within their skill set and are not supported appropriately.
INDS doesn’t have its own department and therefore lacks allocated budget.
Each school within the downtown campus delivers different degree programs (i.e. JD, LLM, MSF, MBA, MDES, etc.) with the unique course of study requirements, faculty composition, and pre-requisite expectations. These structural barriers make it challenging to accommodate collaboration between faculty, curriculum, and co-curricular activity. In order to overcome these barriers, programs will need to come together to analyze the current formal and informal structures on a deeper level while considering the value of re-engineering said structures to make room for constructive overlap.
Programs have different levels of flexibility with regard to required coursework and electives.
Faculties are on different tracks (e.g. tenure-track, adjunct, lecturer) which have different time and performance expectations. INDS work is not part of performance review.
The multiplicity of perspective, filter, training and is the DNA of a fruitful collaboration, but, can also serve as one of the most challenging barriers to a fruitful collaboration. Without language, tools, processes, and infrastructure to navigate cultural differences, sometimes they can inhibit meaningful and productive collaboration. Moreover, humans are comfortable with pattern and familiarity; we are uncomfortable with change. INDS collaboration is fundamentally about change which can be hard for people to wrap their minds around.
The university is comprised of many subcultures with different languages, social work styles, norms, and feedback conventions.
Behavior change is hard especially when the benefit or value isn’t clear to prospective collaborators.
Students and professors exist within different temporalities and motivation structures within a university setting.
Collaboration requires a foundation of trust and accountability, yet there aren’t clear tools and frameworks to help collaborators (at the student and faculty level) to navigate expectations setting and productive teamwork.
Institute of Design Communication workshop hosted a bake sale in DTC lobby to foster informal connections with IIT and Stuart students.
Illinois Tech Today is a communication platform used to communicate university news at large. There isn’t a channel or platform just for the Downtown Campus.
The first year of law school is intensive and there is little room for elective credits.
Students from the Institute of Design and Kent School of Law get to know each other at an event hosted by the Institute of Design Communication Workshop.
“There was definitely like a non-understanding of collaboration. They (Kent students) were like, “they are in the different industry,” so they don’t understand how design would be related to them.”
— IIT Graduate Student
for collatoration between various stakeholders
future school as a marketplace for idea and skill exchange, advising / mentoring, and making connections partnerships between students, faculty, businesses, and the greater community.
Introducing IIT CoLab
IIT CoLab is a central marketplace for idea and skill exchange, advising/mentoring and making connections/partnerships between students, faculty, businesses, and the greater.
CoLab will efficiently and effectively help its members identify and locate prospective collaborators both in and outside of the IIT network and create new networks for a variety of collaboration types. We hope that by utilizing such an educational center as a place for collaboration, we will allow for a great deal of openness, experimentation, and exploration within and across different disciplines and skill sets, from scholarship to entrepreneurship.
IIT CoLab will take the form of both a digital platform and physical space and will assist its members in the areas of knowledge, financial, implementation, and physical asset support, with CoLab brokers at the heart of it. CoLab brokers will be specialists who have grounded and expansive knowledge about the schools, centers, institutes and human resources of IIT. Not only will they connect people together, but they will also strive to best
help participants use the physical space, digital platform, and supporting assets they create.
Supporting multiple collaboration experiences
Quick idea bouncing + feedback sessions (digital: CoLab website + physical: CoLab meeting space) CoLab gathers expertise and arranges individual/group feedback sessions
CoLab Research Incubator
Creates network/matches students, faculty, etc. based on research goals and skills. Aims to make thesis/faculty writing less of an isolated process and more of a collaborative one where people can come together and share resources, content, and methods.
Happy Hour Share Outs
Happy Hour Share Outs provide 10-12 students, faculty, and outside guests
(industry professionals, etc.) monthly opportunities to give quick presentations
on current or previous work of their choice. Post-presentation, guests and
speakers have the opportunity to interact, share ideas and feedback, and