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May Seminar 2016 - COLL 400

With the support of the Center for the Liberal Arts, we are organizing a week-long May seminar on entrepreneurial and innovative activities as COLL 400 courses. Many graduates from William & Mary will be starting their career by working in interdisciplinary teams solving problems that require innovation, motivation, initiative, and teamwork. More likely than not they will need to apply their disciplinary skills in ways that require them to interface directly with people from other disciplines. Although the COLL curriculum already stresses interdisciplinarity in the coursework, interdisciplinary problem solving through team work is not as common a component in the current implementation of the COLL courses.

Other graduates from William & Mary will decide to start their own ventures based on the academic knowledge they gained in their studies (and possibly based on the projects or research that they are already engaged in). Again, they will need to be able to take a broad view that considers how their work will affect or appeal to others. In addition, they will need to be able to formalize this in the form of business plans for outside investors or financing, or science and management plans for proposals to federal funding agencies, etc.

In the May seminar we will explores the various ways in which interdisciplinary problem solving has been approached at William & Mary already, and how this could be developed into COLL 400 experiences for students in the future. In addition to exploring highly interdisciplinary projects with industry, we would also include discussion of how design thinking, business plan creation, tech transfer, SBIR/STTR, etc, may be included as COLL 400 components. As an outcome of the May seminar we would like to have several concrete curricular activities that could be organized as COLL 400 pilots in the Fall of 2016, likely in some conjunction between faculty in physics, applied science, computer science, AidData, business, etc.

The Makerspace May seminar will be held from Monday May 23 to Friday May 27 (second week after commencement) for a maximum of 8 faculty members with the usual compensation of $100/day. A tentative schedule for the May seminar is appended below.

If you are interested, please contact Wouter Deconinck,, and indicate whether you can participate for the full week (considering the limitation on available funds, preference will be given to full-week faculty participants on a first-come basis). If you have integrated semester-long team projects or activities with industrial partners in your courses, we particularly look forward to including you!



We developed a template for a novel kind of COLL 400 course centered around entrepreneurship in collaboration with the School of Business, and we implemented three specific instances in CSCI, BIOL, and PHYS for pilot courses. We can foresee similar courses in a wide variety of disciplines, not just the sciences. We would be happy to continue this work in the fall, as a CLA workshop or similar, and these documents could be a start to making clear that scaleable synthesizing COLL 400 models exist as well, beyond merely a senior research projects. We had a very productive discussion with Gene Tracy on Friday afternoon, so I think he may have some ideas on how this can proceed as well.

Synopsis of COLL 401/402: In this course you will develop an innovative solution to a real-world problem by drawing on the knowledge you have gained from studies in your major, the College Curriculum, and your elective courses. Using the techniques including as design thinking, customer development, and agile management you will develop a minimum viable product. Throughout the course you will learn some of the entrepreneurship techniques that underlie the formation of startups.