For the spring 2020 term, WICI hired PhD student Truzaar Dordi as a graduate research assistant (10 hours per week) to lead exploration of a Complexity education/training initiative at University of Waterloo. This project intended to address the gap in teaching that has been identified in recent years as well as in our 2019 WICI Member Survey.

The project reviewed various training models at the University of Waterloo and beyond, including core, cross-university courses, certificate programs, workshops and/or summer schools. Some of the programs reviewed include the Collaborative Water Program, the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience diploma program for graduate students, the Games Institute’s SWaGUR program, the Climate Risk Management diploma through Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3), the Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology (CBB)’s biomedical technology graduate program and the Center for the Study of Complex Systems (CSCS) at University of Michigan’s graduate certificate.

After considering ease of implementation and overall desirability in a balance with how each would contribute to the WICI mandate and also benefit the institute over a longer term, it was decided that a professional development certificate and a collaborative complexity program are the two strongest options for WICI to pursue over the next one to five years.

A secondary scope of the project was a systemic analysis of complexity and systems thinking course offerings at University of Waterloo, with the objective of determining how many courses already exist that could contribute to the development of curricula for a larger collaborative program down the road.  Some key findings from this analysis are:

  • There are 166 courses at UW that reference complexity and/or systems thinking
  • Complexity related courses are more prevalent in upper years courses, yet 57 percent are taught at the undergraduate level
  • Healthcare is the most common application of complexity studies, followed by strategic management and social change
  • A topic model analysis of course descriptions can inform development of a list of approved electives under areas of interest

This project overall has helped guide a preliminary course of action toward development of an education/training program in complexity at University of Waterloo. In particular, the option of offering professional development training has emerged as a timely and appealing venture, as the UW Professional Development office is currently exploring new course offerings and is excited to support WICI in this exploration.  In addition, this has been identified as a potentially lucrative option to assist WICI in achieving financial independence, and can enable WICI to better support student-focused activities including the cooperative education program. These potential opportunities were brought to light as a direct result of this project.

View the final Internal Working Document: Proposal for Training Program by Truzaar Dordi & Vanessa Schweizer.

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