How one class changed my last year of school Capstone courses that mix students from different faculties benefit everyone

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By: Sana Khawaja

The start of a school year is usually marked by newness: new clothes, accessories, books, classes, jobs and ambitions that give a sense of being born again. And it is this excitement of starting a new chapter in life and conquering new challenges that gives us a sense that we’re growing and are becoming stronger and more independent in our life. However, for the first time last September that was not the case for me.

Last September the feeling of newness at the beginning of the school year was absent and coming to Mac felt like a predictable cyclical pattern – wake up, school, study, work, go to bed and repeat. The daily routine felt like a scripted storyline with no surprises, just following a regular mundane routine that delivered excitement on par with a hamster’s everyday life.

But there’s an unlikely savior: ENG/COMM/ SOC SCI 4ID3 – yes going to class made life more exciting. Hear me out. 4ID3 is a final year interdisciplinary Capstone project that incubated students from Engineering, Commerce and Social Sciences. It’s the brainchild of Dr. Charlotte Yates (previous Deane of Social Sciences), who persuaded Dr. Ishwar K. Puri and Dr. Leonard Waverman to design a course galvanizing different faculties. McMaster is known for its multifaceted programs: Arts & Science, Interdisciplinary Science, Engineering and Society and the newly minted Integrated Business and Humanities program. So this course is no surprise, and was structured uniquely in so that students were consultants for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to assist with their new Enrichment and Innovation Centre at the Dr. Davey School for Gifted Students.

The class was divided into four factions: Website Development, Transportation, Communications and High School Support each responsible for a unique need of our client. It felt a lot like being a part of the Divergent storyline – each faculty had its strengths, and in the end, we all combined forces to create new learning opportunities and formed programming based on the specific needs for HWDSB. The support from Tammy Faux, Kristy Luker, Zoe Branigan-Pipe, and Gerry Schaefer was vital in developing the different facets of the project and aiding us to understand their role as consultants. The mentorship and encouragement from the Dr. Greg Zilberbrant was paramount because it served as a crucial catalyst that helped students embrace the different challenges throughout the course

Working as a consultant was a game changer particularly for an Arts student because there are seldom experiences that provide a chance to work with a client on real world project. From my perspective, this experience was invaluable as it helped students develop better people management skills, expanded networking opportunities, develop strong time management discipline, and bolstered comprehension of different learning methods and different schools of thought.

Working with students from various faculties gives insight into different ways of approaching and solving problems, we did not always agree and at times did not immediately understand one another, but undoubtedly this experience prepares us for real world challenges that have no simple solution or immediate answer. In a YouTube video for the course, all six students interviewed recommended the course and said they would take it again if given the opportunity.

Being a part of an interdisciplinary team felt similar to being a Polymath from the Renaissance considering the scholars René Descartes, Galileo Galilei, Averroes, Avicenna, Erasmus and many others mastered the Arts and Sciences and were able to invent and build upon a complex array of knowledge to produce solutions for the benefit of humanity. Being a student for ENG/COMM/SOC SCI 4ID3 felt like being a manager of change responsible for planning and developing solutions to help others and contribute to real world impact and value.

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