Integrating the Boardroom and the Classroom: Synthesis and Collaboration of Academic Inquiry and Professional Pragmatism

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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
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Integrating the Boardroom and the Classroom


Brian F. Davies

Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Interior Design
College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Davies earned a B.S. in 1991, and an M.A. in 1999, both from Cornell University in its Department of Design & Environmental Analysis. Professor Davies comes to academia from a career in professional design practice that has crossed scales and typologies both nationally and internationally. He joined the faculty of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati in 2005 following an assistant professor position with the University of Oregon. Davies is focused on immersive, collaborative research and teaching.

Audrey de Filippis

Master of Architecture and MBA Candidate, School of Architecture and Interior Design
College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Audrey de Filippis is a candidate for a Master of Architecture degree in conjunction with an MBA in 2010 at the University of Cincinnati. She is a Graduate Assistant at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning where she also received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture e in 2008. She participated in the collaborative sponsored studio and has since furthered her business studies, pairing them with architectural methods in order to explore developments in collaborative and multi-disciplinary design.

Ref: L09P1594