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Dr. Eugenia Ellis’s Italian Friendship, A Success in Global Classroom

Dr. Ellis's GC

July 24, 2017

Lijun Huang

Dr. Eugenia Ellis, Associate Professor of Architecture and Interior Design in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, is a distinguished architect and researcher.

As an educator, Dr. Ellis has always valued the idea of diversity and innovation. She quickly realized she could use the Global Classroom model to take her educational and research achievements even further.

For her first Global Classroom, Dr. Ellis found a way to incorporate a partnership with Politecnico di Milano into her BioDesign course with support from the Office of International Programs. Drexel students worked virtually with peers at PoliMilano throughout the term, and their final projects were completed in groups mixed with Drexel and PoliMilano students.

Politechnico di Milano is located in Lecco, a beautiful town right outside of Milan, Italy. As the largest technical university in the country, the university trains engineers, architects, and industrial designers, with a concentration on quality and innovation in its education and research.

Dr. Ellis and her Italian peers developed a collaborative study plan for students at the two universities, introducing them to the necessity of including bio-informed sciences into design. The course helps students understand why it is beneficial if both designers and engineers consider relationships between the built environment and nature.

Students studied the scientific and medical reasons behind the effects of the natural environment on health and well-being. For the completion of the course, students at Drexel and students at Politechnico di Milano worked jointly on developing a variety of building projects, with consideration of the local climate and natural environment.

At the end of the course, students presented the results of their projects together, through the support from communicative technology. One student and her Italian groupmates designed a building in Milan having an ellipsoidal footprint, so that it can match with the path of sun on summer solstice in Italy.

Dr. Ellis said she benefited a lot from the global experience.

“Global Classrooms help to bring different kinds of talents together. Studying other specialties and sharing your own helps us a lot in making projects better. And the most important about this course is that the students’ projects are absolutely fabulous.”

Through this one-term course, Dr. Ellis has developed a great friendship with her partners at Politechnico di Milano. She is already planning on deepening their collaboration. They are looking forward to meeting in-person in Philadelphia in September, and together, they hope to develop an Intensive Course Abroad (ICA) program, which would take both classes of students to a third location to bring ideas that are even more diverse into the designs.