Interdisciplinary graduate design programs: Results and recommendations from an NSF workshop
Improving the creativity and innovativeness of U.S. graduate students is a mandate for national competitiveness and social well-being. Despite this imperative, many are uncertain about how to best prepare students for tackling the complex design problems of the future, some that we know about and others yet to be uncovered. With this in mind, we convened a two-day workshop at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, VA to discuss the challenges, successes, and future directions for interdisciplinary graduate design programs that have recently emerged or are being established to address this critical need. Not including NSF personnel, 42 people from academia and industry gathered to learn about nine existing interdisciplinary design programs. Three panels were also held to discuss: (1) overcoming interdisciplinary differences in research and teaching, (2) industry perspectives on interdisciplinary design programs, and (3) future directions and program developments. A number of common themes emerged from the workshop, including the disciplinary characteristics of interdisciplinary design, the varying perspectives on the design process, pedagogical approaches toward teaching interdisciplinary design, structuring interdisciplinary design degrees, and sustainability of an interdisciplinary design discipline. Based on the dialogue at the workshop and our analysis of the common themes, we offer ten recommendations divided into three areas: (1) advance interdisciplinary design activities, (2) enhance interdisciplinary design programs, and (3) support interdisciplinary design research.