Initial Publication Date: November 12, 2019

Leading Change with Design Thinking: A collaborative model of course transform using approaches for solving wicked problems

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET

Presenters: Nick Swayne, Bernie Kaussler, Patrice Ludwig, and Sean McCarthy (James Madison University)

The registration deadline has passed.


Student interest is migrating towards the large-scale "wicked" problems in our world, such as climate change, income inequality, sustainability, and human trafficking. These wicked problems rarely rely on a single discipline for their solution, however our educational system is locked into the single discipline approach. At James Madison University, we have explored a variety of programs that build transdisciplinary opportunities for our students.

Transdisciplinary teaching and learning are hot topics, but how can you get started and sustain transdisciplinary activities on your campus? Over the past five years, we have created an array of transdisciplinary courses, designed intentionally to help students and faculty experience a world where they can bring their disciplinary knowledge to bear on wicked challenges. Students describe these experiences as the most challenging courses they've taken. By combining concrete examples of innovation capacity, professional curiosity, and exceptional communication skills, these students tend to be hired earlier in the season and earn more than their peers by discipline. Further, they remain engaged upon graduation and actively seek opportunities to build connections between their employers and the institution.


This webinar is designed for disciplinary, and institutional change makers (e.g., department chairs, vice provosts, administrators, faculty learning community facilitators, disciplinary association members and leaders). It may have particular interest for those who are intellectually curious about researching or solving complex problems that exceed the capacity of one disciplinary approach.


As a result of this webinar, participants will:

  • identify transformational opportunities on their campus using trans-/multi-disciplinary learning and teaching
  • identify the resources needed to create and sustain transdisciplinary learning opportunities
  • become aware of potential challenges in developing transdisciplinary learning opportunities
  • learn the value of transdisciplinary learning experiences for their students


The registration deadline has passed.

10:00 am PT | 11:00 am MT | 12:00 pm CT | 1:00 pm ET
Duration - 60 minutes
Format - Online web presentation via Zoom web meeting software with questions and discussion. Go to the webinar technology page for more information on using Zoom. Detailed instructions for joining the webinar will be emailed to registered participants one day prior to the webinar.
Preparation - There is no advance preparation required for this webinar.

Please email Mitchell Awalt (mawalt at if you have any technical questions about this event.


Nick Swayne is the Executive Director of 4-Virginia and the founder of JMU X-Labs. He leads team of partner institutions in meeting the mission to leverage their strengths to improve the efficiency and economic impact of higher education across the Commonwealth. He serves as faculty advisor for the University Innovation Fellows, the Executive Director of Virginia-DC robotics, chairs the Veteran Scholar's Task Force, co-founder of the Regional Veterans Collaborative, a doctoral candidate in Strategic Leadership (ABD), and is serving in his third term on the Harrisonburg City School Board. He's a retired Army officer with 26 years of service.

Bernie Kaussler is Professor of Political Science. His research focus deals with diplomacy and statecraft, conflict management, US foreign policy and Middle East security. His latest book was published by Routledge in 2017 and is on the impact of US foreign policy on Middle East security: US Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East: The Realpolitik of Deceit He enjoys the intersection of scholarship and the policy-making community. To that end, he has produced national security teaching materials for the US armed forces and participated in war games. He provides regular commentary on US foreign policy and Middle Eastern affairs. His blog is at Dr. Kaussler's teaching areas include: US Foreign Policy, International Security, Middle East security, Global Politics, US - Middle East relations and Hacking for Diplomacy at the JMU X-Labs.

Patrice Ludwig's home department is Biology where she is an Associate Professor. She is a senior instructor in JMU X-Labs where she combines her drive for evidence, connection, and innovation. She has co-developed, co-taught, and co-researched iterations of Medical Innovations, Community Innovations, and the Applications of Drones/IoT course. She leverages her training as a population ecologist to understand how course participants form and leverage networks in Innovation Education.

Sean McCarthy is an associate professor in the School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication at James Madison University and a senior instructor at JMU X-Labs. In his home department, his research and teaching interests focus on digital media communications and community engagement. At JMU X-Labs he designs and teaches team-taught, problem-focused courses and researches interdisciplinary approaches to higher education.


  • Welcome and introductory remarks
  • Presentation
  • Questions and answers
  • Webinar evaluation

Resources and References

View or download the webinar screencast (MP4 Video 80.8MB Feb13 20).