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Interdisciplinarity as an approach to engaging students during welcome week

Funded by WIHEA, Dr Rebecca Freeman (Dean of Students), Dr Elena Riva (IATL Director of Studies), Raksha Gohel (PG Student, Life Science) and Leila Fuerst (UG Student Liberal Arts – now PG Student Engineering/IATL) together with a wider group of staff, Students’ Union Officers and Undergraduate and Postgraduate students have embedded interdisciplinary opportunities for students during Welcome Week 2019, enabling them to gain interdisciplinary learning experience from an early stage. The creative programme of activities, designed, developed and delivered by the project team, included a series of IATL modules taster sessions entitled ‘Widening Your Horizons’ on topics such as Wellbeing, Imagination and Design Thinking, a workshop during which students have created ‘the Perfect Sandwich’ and the screening of Wall-E followed by an interdisciplinary panel of Warwick experts.

The events have successfully involved 170 freshers from a variety of Departments and disciplinary background.

Please read the reflections below from two of the project team:

It was an incredible experience to be involved in organising the interdisciplinary events in Welcome Week. It was a truly unique experience to have created events with a range of students and staff across different departments of the University, and come together to introduce students to the interdisciplinary lifestyle that is Warwick. My highlight would be delivering the “How To Make A Perfect Sandwich” session because it was a great way of demonstrating the ubiquitous nature of interdisciplinarity in a fun way! It was spectacular to see students who have just arrived to campus, thinking outside the box and collaborating to produce some wonderfully creative and peculiar sandwiches, and relate this back to their own disciplines. It was also a very nostalgic feeling, looking back on my first week at Warwick (which had no Welcome Week) and reminiscing on how Warwick appeared to be so daunting. 4 years later, I have much more of an appreciation of all of the different branches here and all that Warwick has to offer, and hope that freshers can now admire this from the beginning of their time here.” Raksha Gohel

“My journey of this project started back in February and has gone through to Welcome Week in October. I attended a preliminary meeting where ideas and projects were mind-mapped and discussed. One project I put forth was the screening of an interdisciplinary movie, Wall-E, followed by a little discussion. It started off as just an idea and it developed into an actual event that I got to see through and organise. There is a level of pride associated with this, being able to take something I have designed with the help of many colleagues, and then actualise it during Welcome Week. Although there were less people than expected, the event was a success, despite some technological issues. The discussion with the four panel members was incredible and the audience had some interesting and intriguing questions. Those who attended were enthusiastic about the panel, even though we had some doubts on the number of questions that would be asked, we were positively surprised. Although I was quite nervous during the event, I have learned so much, and I am so happy with the outcome of it! It was a new experience for me and has taught me many things, including confidence, public speaking, but especially that when you follow something through to the end, the outcome is always worth it!” Leila Fuerst

The Education Strategy and University TEF submissions have set out some distinctive elements of a Warwick education including interdisciplinarity and internationalisation. These aspects are standout elements of the Warwick student experience. This project seeks to embed and communicate these distinctive opportunities for students up front through a programme of engaging activity that enables students to gain an interdisciplinary learning experience during Welcome Week (WW), exciting students about the learning potential of Warwick from an early stage, providing a broader perspective on their academic programmes as well as giving students some learning activities to engage with early on. We know that students don’t always find the concept of interdisciplinarity easy to understand (Lyall et al. 2015), WW provides an opportunity to demonstrate what it means and the value of their engagement while they are at Warwick.

The project brings together staff and student as part of an interdisciplinary team to develop a series of sessions which will be developed for implementation in 2019. We have had 2 team meetings so far, one to develop a set of initial ideas for consultation, and one to plan a session which was then delivered at the Warwick Induction Conference 2019.

We have developed a series of ideas which we presented at the Warwick Induction Conference to a group of staff gaining feedback to inform the development of:

Make the perfect sandwich – an session in which students design the perfect sandwich with interdisciplinary and cultural perspectives on food

Secret challenge – a Warwick Secret Challenge style session in which students will work together to respond to a Welcome Week themed challenge

A film screening of the Disney film, Wall-e with disciplinary perspectives on the film

Our next steps are to refine the development of the sessions based on the conference feedback and run focus groups with a wider student group before working with the WW team to implement.

Project Team:

Beccy Freeman

Elena Riva

Lisa Field

Liam Jackson

Leila Fuerst

Raksha Gohel

Paula Ghergu

Zara Mujib

Farrah Vogel

Jess Oliver

Claire O’Leary

Caroline Gibson