IBM Academic Initiative

Building skills for a Smarter Planet

Spotlight on Notre Dame faculty

Preparing students to create a "Smarter Planet"

Coshow     Harms     Miller

Dr. Suzanne Coshow, Dr. Chad Harms, Samuel Miller

Associate Professional Specialists
Mendoza College of Business
University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana

Foresight for a better future

Since October 2009, IBM has been promoting innovative programs to solve critical problems facing the world and create what we call a "Smarter Planet". In a similar quest, the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame is actively training over 330 students each semester to be the thought leaders of the future. Suzanne Coshow, Chad Harms and Samuel Miller are teaching an innovative, required research course for juniors called Foresight in Business & Society, which challenges students to identify and evaluate major issues and trends that can impact society in the future.

The online magazine Notre Dame Business explains that the course "...focuses on the major trends expected to shape the world, and provides students with a framework for how to think critically about change and plan for it." The course is designed to foster critical, analytical, systems and creative thinking, and culminates in a final project that applies these skills to a serious issue facing the world. The students are expected to take a futurist's perspective and propose solutions that both demonstrate leadership and can make a positive difference.

Real world connections

To help the students think and act like professional business people and futurists, the faculty brought in experts from IBM's Marketing Insight group to serve as mentors for the final projects. The students work in small groups, meeting frequently with their mentors who provide them with guidance and professional resources. Last semester, David Jarvis, Market Insights Team Lead, gave a formal presentation to all the students in the Foresight in Business & Society classes exploring several current initiatives that are striving to improve the world's cities.

The course instructors also are introducing IBM's CityOne, a real-world simulation game that can help the students predict and plan for the future. It gives players the opportunity to explore more than 100 real-world scenarios to transform cities through a series of crisis scenarios.

Building T-shaped skills

With its combination of critical thinking, social issues and business concerns, this course takes a big step toward building T-shaped skills. People with T-shaped skills are described as having a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the "T", but also can branch out into other complimentary skills to explore insights from different perspectives and recognize common patterns. Having T-shaped skills is high on the list of qualities that recruiters currently are seeking. Notre Dame is ensuring that the graduates of the Mendoza College of Business will be well-prepared to enter the job market.

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