Integrating the Boardroom and the Classroom: Synthesis and Collaboration of Academic Inquiry and Professional Pragmatism
This case study presents a progressive educational experience at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning [DAAP] that captured the external value of an experimental learning method. The year-long effort partnered six distinct academic programs with an external sponsor (a Fortune 500 retailer) to innovate in retail environments. The experience positioned 66 undergraduate students and various faculty with the opportunity to redefine mass consumer retail design through a multi-disciplinary and collaborative investigation.
Traditional design education delivers learning to students through secondary sources and limited access to contemporary experts in the discipline. This case suspended typical pedagogical hierarchy and enabled students to engage in direct and equal dialogue with professionals and their faculty to produce new insights and leading edge ideas—some of which are realized in the current marketplace. The innovations stressed reducing the sponsor’s environmental impact across its operations. Upon completion of the experience, the mid-level students achieved a level mastery in the subject not often achieved by undergraduate or graduate students until their capstone project.
The interaction between students, faculty, professionals, and the sponsor provided layered feedback to the curriculum, which culminated, at the end of each academic quarter, in a conference with sponsor executives. One quarter’s students delivered their proposal directly to the sponsor’s CEO. This interchange between the boardroom and the classroom brought executives, students, and faculty out of their typical habits and demonstrated complimentary synergies for innovation between industry and academia.
Keywords: Collaborative, Environmental Impact, Integrative, Multi-Disciplinary, Pedagogy, Retail Design, Sponsored Education
Brian F. Davies
Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Interior Design
Audrey de Filippis
Master of Architecture and MBA Candidate, School of Architecture and Interior Design