Taking notice of increased student interest in the intersection between science and design, the University has announced a new interdisciplinary minor sponsored by the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS). The new Integrated Design, Engineering and Applied Sciences (IDEAS) minor, which was approved by the Educational Policy Committee earlier this month, will instruct students in the foundations of engineering and design by compiling new and existing courses into a cohesive curricular path.
“Our aim is to provide students with practical design and problem-solving skills, coupled with the context to understand the social and cultural implications of their work,”  Professor of Physics and CIS Director Francis Starr explained, who was among those responsible for creating the minor. “Initially, we looked at design and engineering as distinct foci, but quickly came to realize that engineering without design thinking does not help students develop a skill set to face the challenges of our society;  similarly, design without thinking about real world engineering constraints can result in an unrealistic vision. Fortunately, there is a growing movement to incorporate design and engineering in a unified education.”
Starr was assisted by a collaborative team of professors and administrators from both the Arts and Humanities Departments and the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Departments, including Professor of Physics and Integrative Sciences Greg Voth, Dean of the Arts and Humanities Ellen Nerenberg, Professor of Art David Schorr, and Associate Professor of Art and Environmental Studies Elijah Huge.
The minor will consist of six required courses in two different categories: project-based courses in both engineering and the arts, as well as elective modules in both the arts and the sciences. The major will introduce several new course offerings, such as Introduction to Engineering and Design, which will be taught by Professor Voth, and Principles of Engineering. These engineering courses will be supplemented by design courses including ARST 190 and 233: Digital Art & Computer-Based Modeling and Digital Fabrication, respectively. CIS noted that additional courses will be added in the next year.
IDEAS will join the existing programs that aim to provide a comprehensive engineering program in a liberal arts environment, such as the 3-2 or 4-2 programs, in which students earn a BA from Wesleyan and a BS from Caltech, Dartmouth, or Columbia. The advantage of the new minor is that it allows students to pursue an engineering career without spending an extra 1-2 years in school or changing institutions.
“One of the reasons the new minor excites me is that it offers a different path into engineering from our existing program,” Starr said. “The IDEAS minor uses hands-on fabrication to motivate learning, rather than a traditional focus on rote training.”
He noted that he was specifically interested in creating a minor, as he saw it as the best way to experiment with the logistics of a complicated new interdisciplinary program.
“Because such an integrated program is rather rare, we are starting with a minor to allow us a chance to refine and improve this approach,” Starr explained. “Student feedback is going to be critical. Our goal is [to] use this experience to help us craft [a] major that will serve Wesleyan’s unique students.”
Students interested in this area of study will be able to begin fulfilling requirements for the new minor at the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Erin Hussey can be reached at ehussey@wesleyan.edu or on Twitter as @e_riss

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