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New Ohio State class to bring diverse majors together for research

Daniel Reff, an Ohio State comparative studies professor, will be launching a class aimed to create a research experience for students from all majors.
“The idea was to put together a class where students would, you might have, say an art major, a physics major and a literature major, people from different backgrounds, and see if they could work together on a project,” Reff said.
The class is called Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research and fulfills the honors research thesis requirement.
While the students would all be working on a combined project, the hope is that they will find something for themselves within the larger project, Reff said.
The students will also fulfill their honors research thesis requirements in their specific fields of study by lending their particular skills and expertise to the overarching larger project.
The collaboration students would practice is a skill that will carry to the work world, Reff said.
“It seems like in academia and also in business, everybody emphasizes the importance of collaborative and interdisciplinary research,” Reff said. “You look at all the corporations that are in the news, you know, they all seem to have these interesting work places where difference is empowered and people sit around and they work together in ways that are less authoritative.”
New classes like these don’t get designed overnight. It takes six months to a year to get a new class added to the course catalogue, Reff said.
“It has to be something, usually from the start, in which you think, ‘Oh, I think students would find this interesting and relevant,’ and then the next step is, ‘Are we all ready doing this? Is there a course like this that’s being taught in some department or someplace?'” he said. “And then, if not, then actually thinking through, ‘OK, what would the class look like?'”
The next step after all that, Reff said, is to float the sample syllabus around the university to get a feel for what other professors and administrators think about it.
“The success of a course, oftentimes, will depend on whether other faculty recommend it to their students, or whether people perceive it to be useful and something new,” Reff said.
Once that is done, the final step is actually going through the Office of Academic Affairs and different university committees which will decide if the course will count for GEC requirements and what number it will be assigned. Then there is another review process to determine if the course will become an honors class, he said.
It is an uncommon occurrence for a new class to be developed, and he does not know of any other professors who are designing a new course for the next semester, Reff said.
“I’ve done three or four (new) courses, in my 20 years at Ohio State,” he said.
Teaching a new course is a learning experience for professors, he said.
“It’s certainly a challenge in the sense that you think you know what readings will work and what dimensions of the class will work, but sometimes, you don’t really know for sure and some readings don’t work as well as you think,” Reff said.
Daniel Langstaff, a fourth-year in physics, said he thought the idea of collaborative research could lead to increased objectivity.
“Everybody is going to have an opinion on something, regardless of what it is they’re working on, but if you have multiple people working on the same thing, you’re going to have multiple opinions and hopefully, the idea is, some of those opinions will cancel each other out and you’ll get a more objective view,” Langstaff said.
Dan Eurich, a second-year in environmental engineering, was also supportive of the idea of interdisciplinary research.
“Even though they’re in different fields and things, looking at this, it would be interesting to see how, along the way, each major or whatever would combine with the different types,” Eurich said. “It would just get a different look into things that you wouldn’t really get unless you combined all the different types of degrees and things.”
Jaclyn Rourke, a first-year in pre-nursing, also supported the concept.
“It gives you a diverse look at one topic that you’re looking at and it brings people from different backgrounds together and it helps people work together even if they have different backgrounds,” Rourke said.  

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