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Humanities and Social Sciences Lab Open House Fosters Interdisciplinary Collaboration

By Kylie Gray

Humanities and Social Sciences Lab

April 03, 2018

Spaces have the power to foster collaboration, innovation and the big ideas that will change our future. In this spirit, all Drexel faculty, staff and students are invited to attend an open house showcasing Drexel’s new Humanities and Social Sciences Lab on April 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at 3101 Market Street, Suite 250. Attendees can explore the space, learn about the current research taking place and discuss ideas for future collaborations.

The HSS lab offers meeting, classroom and research spaces designed to encourage interdisciplinary research collaboration. Home to the Center for Science, Technology & Society and the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, the lab also shares a floor with the AJ Drexel Institute for Energy and the Environment — part of a concentrated effort to support collaborations on issues at the forefront of public discourse.

“The thought behind colocating engineers and social scientists was to help facilitate interdisciplinary research, while also giving us resources and space specific to humanities and social science scholarship,” says Alison Kenner, PhD, assistant professor in the Center for Science, Technology and Society and the Department of Politics.

The lab’s resources include a smart computer classroom, a focus group room, and two interview rooms wired with audio and visual recording systems. Open workspaces, windowed offices and places to present work have created a culture that is open and conducive to engagement, Kenner says.

Drexel Humanities and Social Sciences Lab

“Having space to work with students and conduct interviews is really important, as is the software needed for data analysis,” says Kenner. “Given the challenges of getting space on campus, the focus group room has been a huge asset because it can be used for research, meetings and teaching.”

Kenner is one of seven faculty members using the lab for active grants. She meets monthly with community organizers from nonprofits and decision-makers from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Part of her work with the Philadelphia Health and Environment Ethnography Lab, the meetings serve to plan community-based workshops on climate change and health, which Kenner has organized since 2014.

Climate change is also the topic of discussion at meetings of the Urban Climate Change Research Network, which established its North American hub at Drexel in 2016. Faculty from CoAS, the College of Engineering and the Dornsife School of Public Health convene in the lab monthly to facilitate dialogue between policy creators and UCCRN’s climate change researchers.

Mimi Sheller, PhD, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy (mCenter), says the lab has also created a home base for graduate student research. The mCenter has hosted visiting postdoctoral fellows and doctoral students, as well as researchers in the interdisciplinary communication, culture and media doctoral program.

Humanities & Social Sciences Lab Open House

The idea for the April 11 open house emerged from a Provost’s meeting in December titled “Innovations in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences,” which brought together 90 faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.

In breakout sessions, Kenner says that faculty discussed questions at the heart of the lab’s initiatives: “What opportunities and resources exist for interdisciplinary projects between CoAS units, and also with other colleges? What kinds of special projects do we want to get behind? What are our teaching needs, and what do students need?”

“There was a wealth of experiential knowledge and a lot of good ideas. Faculty were very clear about what we need in order to succeed and thrive at Drexel,” says Kenner. “The open house was one of the many ideas that came forward, so that people could see the space and also a showcase of faculty and student research.”

Kenner says that there were three colleagues at her table whom she knew, but had no idea shared her research interests — demonstrating the need for further interdisciplinary dialogue. She hopes the event will encourage further use and familiarity with the space.

“I am looking forward to growing dynamic engagement from the College — more CoAS faculty and students contributing to, and participating in, the lab’s events and culture. There are many opportunities to host events, display your work, and use the space for community engagement.”

The HSS Lab Open House will occur from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 11 at 3101 Market Street, Suite 250. The 3101 Market Street building requires a photo ID to enter. For more information, please visit the event page.