The process of design thinking can be a a guide for adapting how we work, collaborate, and pursue new strategies at institutions.

Applying design concepts for the cultivation of cross-university partnerships

Purposeful collaborations across university disciplines have contributed to new and innovative partnerships

Discussions of the redesign and reinvention of higher education are abundant. Inspired by the challenges of this past year, leaders across higher education seem preoccupied with two sets of issues: 1. In the short term, how do we address the immediate issues posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the public health crisis on our core programs and services? 2. In the long term, how do we rethink the work of our institutions to ensure the viability and relevance of our institutions and promote the common good?

Both sets of issues, the short-term and long-term exigencies posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other related challenges, require interdisciplinary collaborations, creative approaches to problem solving, and a collective willingness to embrace change.

Representing distinct parts of our institution—academic innovation and experiential learning, leadership education and development, and the university library—we approach this subject from three distinct vantage points. Despite our different administrative portfolios and scholarly and professional interests, we collectively view this moment as one of profound opportunity for our institution and for higher education more broadly. Purposeful collaborations across each of our areas have contributed to new and innovative partnerships that we look forward to building upon, including The Hatchery, a dedicated design thinking and ideation studio centrally located in the Archibald S. Alexander Library, a new learning community for interested members of the New Brunswick Libraries, and varying points of convergence with the Innovation, Design, and Entrepreneurship Academy (IDEA) that integrates design and entrepreneurial thinking and leadership development into the Rutgers student experience.

We recognize the uncertainty of the present moment, and we acknowledge firsthand the challenges involved with pursuing new, innovative, and interdisciplinary programs, initiatives, and practices during a period of budgetary challenges, workforce reductions, and an endless stream of institutional and environmental unknowns.

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