By Mariel Sokolov

With spring registration underway, I find myself thinking back to my first ever college registration experience last semester. Because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, I was completely overwhelmed by my options. So I remember how happy I was when I stumbled across a class that would help me explore these options.

The class was called Designing Creativity: Innovation Across Disciplines. It’s taught by Professors Robert Morgan (Professor of Drama with a background in set design) and Bruce Lindsey (Dean of the College of Architecture, Professor of Architecture) and open to all freshmen at WashU.

I remember being a little bit apprehensive about taking the class. It was brand new, after all, and taught by professors in two of the few fields I had conclusively eliminated. Besides, Washington University was a serious place of higher learning. Did I really have time to be taking a class like this? It took me until the middle of the semester to realize that taking this class is the best possible thing I could’ve done during my first semester at WashU.

According to the course description, during the class, students will be exposed to “the study and practice of the creative process across many disciplines” by “hearing from creatives in many fields with practice of those techniques via a lab component that will allow students to explore the development of innovative ideas in collaborative teams followed by project presentations to core faculty and classmates”.

The class is divided into seven subsections: Mind, Body, Heart, Prototyping, Failure, Play & Improvisation, and Money (Business). Each unit is approximately two weeks and consists of three guest lectures, two lab sessions, and a session devoted to a student-guided reflection on the overarching topic.

Guest lecturers “are prominent thinkers and practitioners in the areas of medicine, neuroscience, law, engineering, architecture, human-centered design, business, stage design, and the performing arts”. The lecturers range from Gerard Craft (owner of Niche restaurant and Pastaria) to Provost Holden Thorp.

My favorite speaker was Linda Wagner, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction & Design graduate program at the University of Washington in Seattle. She talked about the importance of empathy and integrating empathy into creative projects. Most importantly, she introduced me to the field of interface and interaction design, an area I had not previously known existed and now plan to pursue as a minor.

I also really enjoyed Patricia Olynyk’s (Director, Graduate School of Art, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts) talk on failure and Annamaria Pileggi’s (Professor of the Practice in Drama, Washington University) seminar on confidence, teamwork, movement, and spontenaity in the creative process.

“The idea behind creating the course was actually born via a series of Provost-hosted meetings that I chaired called ‘Bring Your Own Idea’ meetings,” notes Professor Morgan. “These meetings operate on the very simple concept that faculty across Schools should dialogue with one another and locate opportunities to do Interdisciplinary work together… It was in these meetings that we began to identify that creativity was very important to both students and faculty alike and that students needed to become accustomed to utilizing some kind of creative process in order to develop their ‘voice’.

“The Designing Creativity course is meant to bring students together across ALL disciplines and fields in an effort to illustrate just how all of us are creative in some way and we all, young and old, deal with the complexities of a Creative Process in what we choose to do…Those of us that become adept at our creative endeavors understand that we must become skilled at our powers of observation, be willing to try new things, be good divergent thinkers, and experience failure as a step in the process.  The course hopefully identifies these elements for students and offers them the tools to think creatively for themselves when faced with any problem that confronts them.”

I would definitely recommend this class to any incoming freshman. This course exposed me to remarkable, passionate, unconventional people that introduced me to career and specialty options I didn’t know existed and showed me how to be successful in them. This class helped me discover my academic path in a streamlined, enjoyable, highly effective way. However, I also think this course would be really useful if you’re the sort of person who already knows what they want to do with their life because it teaches you a whole new way of looking at the world.

Professors Morgan and Lindsey plan on offering the course again next fall.

Learn more about Designing Creativity.