Course: Big Problems and Bold Solutions: A Collaborative Approach to Problem Solving and Developing Leadership Skills

HC 431H

Professor: Jim Shephard

Whatever career you embark on, whatever path you follow, you will find success if you are an effective problem solver and leader.  This course will give you an opportunity to develop problem solving and leadership skills in a collaborative environment.  It has been conceived as the course that I wish I had had in college and, more importantly, the course that I wish the numerous people I have hired over the years had had. You will be required to challenge yourself and to be open to challenge by others. It will provide a collaborative experience working on real problems.

We will accomplish these objectives in three ways.  First, we will divide the class into teams.  Each team will be tasked with identifying a big problem, explaining why it is a big problem and making the case for why it hasn’t been satisfactorily resolved and needs to be solved. The big problem and the case for solving it will be presented to the class for feedback and validation. Once validated, the team will work on developing its bold solution that will be original, thoroughly researched, and well written, with periodic updates being provided to the class. 

Second, we will explore problem solving and leadership through readings in psychology, organizational management, autobiographies and political science. We will consider and discuss how to approach problem solving and the attributes of effective leadership, and how we can apply these considerations to the work we perform in our teams. Third, we will invite leaders from our community in education, government, business and non-profits to share with us the big problems that they have faced, how they have worked to solve them and their experience as leaders.

Students from all majors are welcome: the only prerequisites are intellectual curiosity and a willingness to work collaboratively and share. Course requirements include intense collaboration to define a problem and develop solutions, secondary readings, and group and individual writing assignments.