uMux Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 30309

uMux Report
Interdisciplinary Research, Student Perceptions Faculty Feedback

Prepared for:

The Makers Club
Georgia Tech Innovation Studio Manufacturing Related Disciplines Complex 801 Ferst Drive, Atlanta, GA 30332

Report Issued: 10.4.2013

10 April 2013 The Makers Club Georgia Tech Innovation Studio Manufacturing Related Disciplines Complex 801 Ferst Drive, Atlanta, GA 30332

Dear Makers Club: We are pleased to share this report with you which outlines our proposal for uMux, a new platform to facilitate interdisciplinary projects for students and faculty among all academic majors at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Please consider this proposal as an exciting opportunity for your club to further engage in interdisciplinary activities in the Georgia Tech community and beyond. Included is a compilation of relevant research, explicative graphics, and an indepth explanation of our idea. This report is designed to address a range of audiences; it may contain elements that are not of immediate interest to your specific organization. We would like to follow up with you to see if you’d be interested in helping us design a platform which would suit your needs as endusers.

Francesca Malenky, Alex Oxford, Alex Goldsmith, Jordan Lockwood

UMuX: The University Multidisciplinary Exchange Network



Executive Summary Introduction

4 4

Interdisciplinary Programs 4 Our Idea 7 Faculty Interviews Student Perceptions 8 9

Our Plan 10 Conclusion 10 Appendix 11 Works Cited 12

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Executive Summary
Georgia Tech could greatly benefit from an online platform which connects diverse academic talent on campus. uMux, the University Multidisciplinary Exchange Network, would allow students of different backgrounds to find others with similar interests who are interested in working on projects to further their personal or professional goals. Numerous research supports the use of interdisciplinary teams for problem solving; nearly every one of Georgia Tech’s competitor schools have a program in place that allow for a cohesive education, utilizing talent across all academic facets. We have received strong feedback from nearly two-hundred students across campus in an online survey we performed. Further, we have reached out to numerous faculty across Georgia Tech to gauge their interest and support. We have found faculty to be nearly unanimously supportive of the uMux mission of bringing students together who want to apply their individual talents in a project-based form. We are confident in uMux’s future, and are eager to begin networking with end-users, software developers, and corporate recruiters to design our digital platform.

As the platform grows in popularity, it can then be implemented within Georgia Tech itself. The capstone project (Senior Design) is currently designed for likeminded individuals to work together, which might not provide the necessary cross-functional experience for a student to flourish in the professional world. Students who work with different people and create the best possible product that could potentially benefit the world would only serve to jump-start an individual on their best path. This will in turn help Georgia Tech excel to become the leader of twentyfirst century universities. Adopting an interdisciplinary program is necessary for universities to grow and mature into the future.

What is an Interdisciplinary Program?
Integration of knowledge is a product of both teaching and learning. The concept of an interdisciplinary program refers to a philosophy and process of education that integrates the specialized knowledge of multiple disciplines. The objective of such a program would encompass a core curriculum with a focus on the specialty of the student’s choice. This could potentially lead students in different disciplines to meet at the borders of those disciplines and to even move across different borders to form new disciplines. In turn, this will have a positive influence on knowledge production and innovation. An interdisciplinary program does not need to only focus on the student. Such a program could encompass a complex project or goal that requires many different participants with varied skills and specialties. This would be a curriculum that would teach an individual student how to work on a professional team with others who think differently. Overall an interdisciplinary program rounds and guides a student to be better suited for the professional world.

Georgia Tech has grown and developed over the years as a disciplinary university primarily motivating students to embrace their specified interests and skills to prepare them for the professional world. uMux will bring a cultural shift in which Georgia Tech, and other major universities, will adopt an interdisciplinary program and system. In order to implement such a dramatic change, students need to be encouraged to work in an interdisciplinary environment. This can be executed by the creation of an interdisciplinary platform that will allow students, faculty, and alumni to post personal projects that students can work together and complete in a team oriented process.


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Benefits of an Interdisciplinary Program
There is a great deal of discussion about whether or not universities should stay focused on a disciplinary program or if the professional world now requires students to attain knowledge through an interdisciplinary program. A disciplinary system focuses primarily on the individual student and his interests during school. It permits the student to delve into their field of interest to a point of an absolute understanding of the subject. However, current trends in business indicate that more and more employers are choosing to use cross-functional teams to solve problems. As such, researchers argue that the integration of majors with a formation of an interdisciplinary system is more relevant to give students the best potential in the professional world. An interdisciplinary program helps a student become well rounded. The use of an interdisciplinary system requires each student to learn about other fields of interests and work with other individuals that have specified skills that are different from their own. With a basic understanding of other skills, a student will be able to understand how to tackle an obstacle with others.

design effectiveness, or throughput time minimization to almost all business projects of the future. Business leaders of tomorrow must understand how to navigate these teams in order to take part in a shift towards their use, as our platform would allow them to do. Factors such as intra-team dynamics are important in shaping the success of cross-functional teams. Social cohesion within the team is important; cross-functional teams must be cooperative in order to achieve (Nakata). Working within the context of an interdisciplinary student-faculty project would give students the opportunity to learn how to cooperate effectively once they enter the workforce.

Interdisciplinary Programs At Tech
The Scheller College of Business hosts the “Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results” (TI:GER) program, which connects two MBA students, two law students, and a PhD student whose research is commercialized and brought to market. The program seeks to innovate interdisciplinary solutions to legal, economic, and regulatory issues that often become obstacles in commercializing valuable research. Students in the program are given business and legal mentors, benefit from meeting with industry leaders at biannual advisory board meetings, and are able to engage in consulting projects at Georgia Tech’s business incubator (ATDC). Also within the College of Business, jointly with the College of Engineering and the College of Computing, is the Denning Technology and Management Program (T&M). This program brings together undergraduate students in the various fields of engineering and business to learn the basics of each other’s academics and ultimately work with corporate affiliates on a realworld problem they are facing. Students graduate the program, which is structured around 22 credit hours, with a minor in Engineering & Management. Georgia Tech also supports interdisciplinary research

Cross-Functional Teams
Cross-functional teams have become increasingly popular amongst top business firms, especially as the benefits of such teams are being realized. The projects facilitated by our platform would equip students to operate within cross-functional teams upon graduation with experience and acumen. The effectiveness of a cross-functional team is most heavily dependent upon the type of product produced or customer serviced. Design-driven projects can be set up and implemented so as to capitalize on the benefits of cross-functional teams (Ainamo). Since most product and service systems are adaptable to design-led production, cross-functional teams could indeed be beneficial in terms of innovative quality,

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for both undergraduate and graduate students. This is facilitated through the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), as well as through the departmental research institutes, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities office. Students can find projects that require expertise in a number of areas listed through these organizations; however, no outlet currently exists to support interdisciplinary projects outside of research.

Competitors’ Programs
Interdisciplinary programs already exist at a majority of Georgia Tech’s peer institutions. However, these programs are primarily ventures of colleges offering an array of majors across the arts and sciences. The colleges combine curricula to create a distinct major, most commonly titled “Interdisciplinary Studies.” Institutions offering this major, or an equivalent one, include: Cornell, Johns Hopkins, MIT, NC State, Northwestern, Penn State, Perdue, Stanford, Cal Berkeley, UF, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas at Austin, and Virginia Tech. Carnegie Mellon also offers a similar program, but across multiple colleges. Other institutions offer programs that combine numerous majors to collaborate with outside organizations. A prime example is the Ponce Group at CalTech, a partnership with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The group pools the expertise of CalTech’s various research departments to seek evidence of extraterrestrial life. Research programs are another focus of interdisciplinary efforts among Georgia Tech’s peer institutions. MIT, Penn State, and Texas A&M offer specific resources for interdisciplinary research, drawing on talent across all colleges and majors. UCLA employs a Vice Provost Interdisciplinary and Cross-campus Affairs, who is tasked with “working with faculty and campus leadership to promote interdisciplinary and cross-campus research.”
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Our Idea
We will start with a platform that students and faculty can form various “projects” that need people with different experiences to come on board. For example, a Biomedical Engineering student may be working on the development of a new device but needs to write a business plan in order to get a grant. They would turn to this platform to seek the help of a Business student/faculty member. This is a great way to begin developing a community of collaboration amongst the colleges that is currently lacking. It also provides a setting for people to discuss ongoing research and projects that are looking to solve various problems. The next step would be to integrate these “projects” into some form of credit towards a degree. We propose changing the Senior Design projects to be required for all majors and to include multiple majors on every team. We believe these experiences are extremely valuable not only for personal development but also for professional development. Being able to work with people with different educational backgrounds and knowledge sets is extremely important in the modern workforce. Finally, we would like to see a cultural shift in regards to how a student views their major. We would like to move beyond being simply defined by a field of study. We want Georgia Tech students to go beyond the borders of their colleges and be defined by their passions.

Ultimately, we want to focus not just on bringing people together, but also to make the Georgia Tech degree valuable in the sense that the graduates who leave here have the skills and the ability to make a profound impact. And that’s why we are proposing to create the University Multidisciplinary Exchange Network.

Phase 1:
Create a platform that would promote interdisciplinary projects that the Georgia Tech Community would use

Phase 2:

Incorporate interdisciplinary projects into a capstone project students need to complete in order to obtain their GATECH degree

Phase 3:
Some kind of shift in the college major system

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What Georgia Tech Faculty Think
Upon presenting this idea to the Georgia Tech faculty, almost all of the faculty members that we spoke to were very excited about our 3 phases. The goal was to interview two faculty members from each college as well as directors from different programs such as the T&M program and the Scheller College of Business career services. Unfortunately, some interviews were not conducted due to time constraints but the interviews that were conducted gave a lot of insight into our projects.

We were able to conduct 8 interviews: 2 from the College of Computing, 1 from a librarian at the Georgia Tech library, 1 from the College of Architecture, 1 from the Denning T&M Program, 1 from the Scheller College of Business career services center, 1 from the College of Engineering and 1 from a professor at the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts who also teaches in the Scheller College of Business.

Summary of the Interviews
1.) Would you use the platform aspect and would you encourage your students to use it? a. All professors responded that they would use our platform to do projects and encourage their stu dents to use it. Several had skepticism about about whether students would participate without an incentive. We’ve spoken to many students who responded that they would work on projects if the only thing they got out of it was experience to put on their resume. 2.) Do you know of any other similar platforms/programs like our idea? a. A professor from the CoC told us that they use a similar platform for research projects b. The T&M program introduced us to a man who has created a similar idea for working professionals. c. The librarian alerted us to a similar system that is being used for the faculty at Georgia Tech. d. Other professors said that our idea sounded like a more official version of their networks- all the pro fessors know of different people within their own networks that they would approach in order to ask their opinion on a certain subject. Our platform would make that easier. 3.) What do you think of the capstone project idea? a. All professors were fascinated with the idea of an interdisciplinary capstone project b. Several faculty members alerted us to the potential politics involved with creating this. All the col leges have some sort of capstone course and believe that their capstone is the most beneficial for their college. One professor suggested creating an experimental class first that would be interdisci plinary. 4.) What do you think about our overall idea and do you have any suggestions or concerns about our project? a. Many were excited overall about Georgia Tech becoming more interdisciplinary.


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All the professors gave “nitty-gritty” advice on many aspects of our projects such as features to add to the platform and how to go about getting students and faculty involved.

5.) What do you think of the college major system in general? a. All professors acknowledged that the major system is currently necessary for how our workforce is set up but several shared our concerns about the changing workforce and if set majors are the best paths for all students.

What Georgia Tech Students Think
We conducted a survey with Georgia Tech students, asking them to rate our idea on a scale from one to ten (With one being the lowest rating). We received 183 responses from student with balanced proportions from each college major. 72% of students responded that they would participate in a project they could use on their resume. 86% of students surveyed supported the uMux project. Most of the students preferred short-term projects. These projects are great ways of testing out skills and knowledge obtained in classes and are safe environments for students to make mistakes. These projects teach students to interact with those outside of their school and how to communicate different knowledge sets to those with a different point of view. We found the College of Architecture to be the most supportive of the uMux project. The College of Engineering students were more likely to be interested in Long-term Projects, while the College of Computing had a tendency to be more interested in Shorter-term Projects.

Exhibit 1: uMux Support Poll Results

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How we will Accomplish This
We believe that it is very important to establish an interdisciplinary mindset in the Georgia Tech community, which is why the platform is a vital step. We are currently speaking with a professor at Southern Polytechnic State University who already has the coding done for a platform similar to the one we are looking to create- his was designed for people who are unemployed and are looking for freelance IT projects to fill the gap in their resumes and to keep their skills up to date so that they remain employable. We hope to be able to implement this at Georgia Tech for students. With the use of a comprehensive marketing program aimed at the entrepreneurial groups on campus, we would like to see these projects take off and get noticed by employers. Once the employers are buzzing about these projects, we would like to be able to present our idea of earning credit for interdisciplinary projects. There seems to be several steps in this process. The first would be to offer an experimental MGT 4803 class that would be open to seniors from all majors. We would have to recruit a faculty member to teach the class and students to take it. Then, data about the experiences of the students would have to be gathered and analyzed and if the data is positive we could then make it a free elective. Should this class become popular, we could then begin discussions of creating a capstone course that partners with employers who provide projects for interdisciplinary teams to tackle.

As employers continue to use the cross-functional team model, it would be extremely beneficial for universities to prepare their graduates to work with people in other disciplines. Our peer institutions are catching on but Georgia Tech has the chance to be a leader amongst them by creating a program that is beneficial for graduates and businesses. Our platform takes the start-up spirit to heart and we hope it inspires Georgia Tech to take its successful and world-renowned programs and fuse them to create solutions that will change the world.


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Appendix Faculty Interview Questions
1.) Would you use the platform aspect and would you encourage your students to use it? (for non-official research) 2.) Do you know of any other similar platforms/programs like our idea? 3.) What do you think of the capstone project idea? 4.) What do you think about our overall idea and do you have any suggestions or concerns about our project? 5.) What do you think of the college major system in general?

Student Survey Data

To see survey data results, please visit:

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Work Cited Conrad, C., Haworth, J., Millar, S. A Silent Success: Master’s Education in the United States. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. Hartigan, R., “Smart New Degrees”, U.S. News and World Report, April 9, 2001. Hessels, L., Rijnsoever, F. Factors Associated with Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration. December 8, 2010. Ainamo, Antti. “Coordination Mechanisms In Cross-Functional Teams: A Product Design Perspective.” Journal Of Marketing Management 23.9/10 (2007): 841-860. Ghobadi, S, and J D’Ambra. “Coopetitive Relationships In Cross-Functional Software Development Teams: How To Model And Measure?.” Journal Of Systems And Software 85.5 (n.d.): 1096-1104. Majchrzak, Ann, Philip H. B. More, and Samer Faraj. “Transcending Knowledge Differences In Cross-Functional Teams.” Organization Science 23.4 (2012): 951- 970. Nakata, Cheryl, and Subin Im. “Spurring Cross-Functional Integration For Higher New Product Performance: A Group Effectiveness Perspective.” Journal Of Product Innovation Management 27.4 (2010): 554-571.


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