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NRT-IGE Creative Interdisciplinary Research in Graduate Education

National Science Foundation funded through Drexel Chemistry

Project led by:

Jennifer Katz-Buonincontro, PhD
Paul Gondek, PhD
Dee Nicholas, RA, AIA, NCARB
Daniel King, PhD
Fraser Fleming, PhD

Creative Interdisciplinary Research in Graduate Education (CIRGE, pronounced surge) is three-year project funded by the National Science Foundation: National Research Training Program to jump-start a new team-based, interdisciplinary minor at Drexel which purposely inject creative thinking and problem solving into graduate education. CIRGE will develop evidence-based pedagogies to train students to be creative, team-based, interdisciplinary problem solvers. It will offer Drexel students across all colleges two new courses: Enhancing Creativity in Research Projects and Creative Interdisciplinary Teamwork. This project applies Dr. Jennifer Katz-Buonincontro’s research on creative mindsets to the project and aims to assess student skill development in cross-disciplinary team projects and creativity.

Creative thinking is considered a higher-order thinking skill demanded in all subjects,[i] but a lack of creativity remains cited as a failure of the American educational system to prepare students for an innovation-driven economy.[ii] Graduate education in the U.S. is especially ripe for innovation, because current practices typically follow the 2,000-year-old Greek model of master and apprentice,[iii] that often leaves students struggling to develop creative thinking skills on their own. Graduate recruits usually spend at least a year in classes improving their content knowledge but not necessarily their creative abilities. In the sciences, students then begin an apprenticeship which often involves extending ongoing research rather than creatively pioneering new areas. Students in the humanities and social sciences are coached by a faculty mentor who guides the Ph. D. candidate toward an innovative dissertation, but this guidance rarely explicitly addresses how creative practice can guide the development of a novel independent research project. Interdisciplinary research breaks this mold by using increasingly creative solutions to address complex global and regional problems[iv] such as environmental destruction, urban disparity, and poor public health. Large cities like Philadelphia rely on breakthroughs in research to address the major societal problems such as school violence, poverty, and education and public health crises.