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Negotiating Comfort In Difference: Preparing Leaders Of The Future

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering Education by Design

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.940.1 - 9.940.10



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Paper Authors

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April Kedrowicz

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Negotiating Comfort in Difference: Making the Case for Interdisciplinary Collaboration

April A. Kedrowicz University of Utah/College of Engineering


The face of engineering education is changing. Engineering students’ education not only emphasizes technical skills learned through math, science, and computer technology, but in many cases, also has a leadership focus, manifested through an emphasis on oral communication, writing, teamwork, and ethics. In response to the growing demand for engineers to occupy positions of leadership in organizations upon graduation, engineering educators have had to rethink the approach taken to undergraduate education from one with a technical focus to one with a technical and leadership focus. One such approach involves integration through interdisciplinary collaboration. Interdisciplinarity can be described as the interaction among two or more different disciplines. An interdisciplinary group consists of persons trained in different fields of knowledge with different concepts, methods, data and terms organized into a common effort on a common problem with continuous intercommunication among the participants from the different disciplines.1 The purpose of this paper is to highlight the interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty and graduate students from the College of Humanities and College of Engineering at the University of Utah.

The objective of this collaboration is to prepare engineering students to be the leaders of the future by equipping them with both technical and leadership skills. So, through the integration of communication, writing, teamwork and ethics into the existing engineering curriculum, graduates of the program will be prepared to occupy positions of leadership in organizations. But, to fully understand interdisciplinary work (and its successes and failures) one must first understand that disciplines are cultures. Thus, when individuals from two or more disciplines seek to collaborate in teaching or research, the result is a “culture clash” of sorts. This clash is evident through differences in language, practices, and norms. The goal, however, is not to minimize all difference, but rather, work from a place of “comfort in difference,” whereby members of the cultures can learn about and be sensitive to said differences, but also work to co- create meaning through interaction.

This paper, then, is about “comfort in difference” and describes how interdisciplinary collaboration involves a process of socialization whereby individuals learn about each other, learn to be sensitive to difference, and work toward a common understanding through dialogue in order to realize the program’s goal.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference &Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Kedrowicz, A. (2004, June), Negotiating Comfort In Difference: Preparing Leaders Of The Future Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13408

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