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C4 crew creates an exciting, interdisciplinary summer experience for students

C4 crew creates an exciting, interdisciplinary summer experience for students

If the Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4) piqued your curiosity, but you’ve been wary of committing to a two-semester project, rejoice: C4, the summer edition, is here.

C4 is the award-winning initiative that brings students from different disciplines together to work in teams on solutions to real-life problems with a variety of partners and mentors. During the academic year, the course runs for two semesters. In 2020-21, the second year of C4, 160 students are working in 24 teams on a project they selected from among 70 possibilities.

Danielle Robinson

“We’re growing, diversifying and trying to mix it up a bit,” said Danielle Robinson, associate professor of dance in the Faculty of Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD) and one of the co-founders of C4. “The summer session will involve the entire class of 50 students working together on one project in partnership with the MaRS Discovery District. For 40 of the students, it will be an introduction to interdisciplinary teamwork. We are saving the other 10 spots for C4 alumni who will hone their management and leadership skills.”

Franz Newland

Franz Newland, associate professor in the teaching stream at the Lassonde School of Engineering and the other co-founder of C4, said, “It’s exciting to have those who have been through it before help those who have not. It changes the dynamic. We’re looking to have an impact, and we’re looking to the management group to drive the project forward.”

The C4 alumni management group acquired project management skills from their previous C4 experience. They will also receive guidance from Zemina Meghji, project manager and analyst for the Lassonde Educational Innovation Studio housed within the Lassonde School of Engineering.

“It’s important for the C4 alumni management team to be mindful of the management styles they choose,” said Meghji. “They need to know the origins of these practices; some grew out of slavery. We want to guide and coach them to be the best leaders they can be. It’s part of their development.”

Robinson is excited that the students will be working closely with MaRS. “We were looking for a partner who was innovative and invested in collaborating with students on creative problem solving,” she said.

The challenge the student team will be addressing was inspired by the pandemic. In looking at community spaces that were impacted during the pandemic, it became apparent that there are generally only two- or three-season spaces available for the public, so the task will be to explore how it is possible to set public space up to foster community connections year-round.

C4 students meet to plan their projects (the image was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic)

Andrea Kalmin, a course director in the Department of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will serve as the academic director for the summer C4 pilot.

“Being part of a C4 teaching team is a unique experience,” said Kalmin “It’s more about mentoring, shaping, facilitating and guiding, rather than lecturing. It will be all about creating a structure to facilitate their journey.”

That structure will take the shape of a weekly, three-hour virtual session for the entire group that will include time for a meeting and break-out sessions. The students will also gather virtually outside of class time to work on the project each week.

“In this case, because of the compressed format, we’ve chosen the project partner and the particular focus,” said Kalmin, “but there is still space for the students to make the project their own. It lends itself to a variety of interests and to interdisciplinarity. They can approach the challenge as they see fit.”

The C4 team will check in with students at “pivotal points” in the project, and there will also be frequent virtual meetings where the students can connect with the instructors, mentors and project partners about their progress.

The team has held two town halls to answer questions about the summer version of C4, with the last one scheduled for March 25 at 11 a.m. Applications to participate in summer C4 are due on March 26. There are more interested students than spaces, because the program has developed the reputation for being exciting, challenging and transformative. Those selected will be required to do some preparatory work for the upcoming project.

“When Danielle and I created C4, we were excited about the potential for cross-disciplinary collaboration, but we were most excited about the potential for participants to bring all of themselves to the space,” said Newland. “We want them to recognize that their discipline adds to their toolkit, but it doesn’t define them. We are all more than we realize.”

This alchemy can produce remarkable results, so stay tuned.

By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer to Innovatus

Courtesy of YFile.