In most higher education institutions, the first questions that faculty ask students are: What’s your major? What do you want to do? What industry do you want to work in?
But the world isn’t structured by discipline, says Capital University President Elizabeth Paul, Ph.D. It’s structured by real problems, issues and areas of impact that require people to learn and grow in different ways.
The environment is a good example. People used to work on the environment from a particular discipline, but today the environment itself has become an area of expertise, she says.
Along those lines, Capital University is emphasizing collaboration, helping students learn different disciplines and put them together in novel ways. Its new Convergent Media Center, for instance, houses creative, communication and public relations disciplines.
“We’ve brought all of that under one roof — opening up those fields to think about how we can help students put them together more in a unique way that helps them to go out and be better and more effective communicators in today’s world,” Paul says.
“Businesses are clearly looking for that now, recognizing that there are multiple channels or multiple media outlets that they need to be focused on,” she says. “This kind of graduate becomes an asset to a business.”
In order to break down barriers, in education or in business, you have to approach from the mission, Paul says.
“If you say, ‘Take this discipline and let’s try to put it together with this discipline and see where we get,’ it’s harder because what you’re doing is you’re almost emphasizing territoriality,” she says.
Instead, come at it from the wider perspective of “why.” Ask questions like, what do we need in society? What is the purpose behind it all?
Physical space can help break down mindsets, too.
Paul says the Convergent Media Center has a studio area for radio, television production, recording, graphic design and print media, and all of them are interconnected.
While collaboration sometimes needs seed support or putting a challenge out and asking for conversations about how to solve it, at Capital it also has come from the students.