My main goal is to encourage students to develop creative and critical thinking skills and in doing so prepare them to thrive in a fast-paced, complex, globalized world. While critical thinking skills enable students to analyze arguments and existing ideas, creative skills help them develop new ideas often by borrowing insights from other disciplines to solve problems within their own field. Creative skills are vital in today’s marketplace and in life in general. Recent research shows that over 60 percent of CEOs consider creativity to be the most important quality of leaders, while one third of leaders believe that their employees lack the ability to deliver ideas that matter. Creative people are more curious and show greater interest in improving the lives of others. I rely on active-learning exercises (simulations, group analysis of cases) and creativity-building techniques to help my students become more innovative thinkers.
Below are links to my course syllabi, creative course projects developed by my students, and resources that I have used for active, creative learning.
Undergraduate Course Syllabus
American Foreign Policy, Spies, Lies, and Allies: the Dark Side of U.S. Foreign Policy, International Relations of Europe, Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict & Genocide, Causes of War, African Politics, Introduction to International Relations, Environmental Conflict: Causes and Resolution
Graduate Course Syllabus
Today the opportunities to make post-secondary education available to all is becoming a reality through the rise of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Before the age of MOOCs when such opportunities were limited, I was involved in fostering the growth of long-distance, post-secondary education for refugees from conflict zones through Respect University (Refugee Education Sponsorship Program Enhancing Communities Together). The team of volunteers of which I was a part of taught courses and recruited new volunteers to meet the growing need for education among displaced populations. In 2007, we were one of ten teams awarded the United Nations Online Volunteering Team of the Year Award.
Creativity & Innovation in the Classroom
What are the challenges of peacekeeping and peacebuilding in the aftermath of civil wars? This board game allows you to assume the leadership of a country recovering from the ravages of war as you seek to maintain peace in the midst of security, political, and economic challenges. Which needs will you prioritize? This creative board game was developed by my student Michael Good in my course, Ethnic Conflict & Genocide, and during independent studies that we used to improve the project (Michael's game simulation was published in 2011 in International Studies Perspectives and was among top 10 most downloaded papers at APSA Convention in 2010). Game description, rules, and learning benefits can be found here.
Check out another creative project developed by my students with the goal of raising local awareness about ethnic conflicts and civil wars around the globe. This blog, Peace Diamonds, discusses the role of lootable resources in prolonging conflicts and shows how we can minimize our indirect role in fueling these conflicts.
I often utilize creative techniques to stimulate innovative thinking in my courses. Students are asked to develop new ideas to solve pressing international problems and to rely on creative tactics to facilitate the process of ideation. One of my favorite techniques is the Random Stimulus Tactic and SCAMPER (video below). See my article on the effectiveness of SCAMPER technique for improving the students' creative skills and suggestions for introducing creativity-building techniques into the Political Science classroom.
Creativity in an Interdisciplinary Setting
Media Scholar John Culkin once remarked that the greater the contrast the greater the potential. Leading creativity researchers have similarly noted that originality peaks when we develop connections among divergent fields and knowledge domains. And so inspired by these observations, I helped to bring together a diverse group of participants and speakers, including business leaders, creativity scholars, sports professionals, scientists, and designers for Innovation Collision, the first interdisciplinary conference on innovation in New York City. The conference featured inspiring stories about the emergence of creative insights in different fields, the latest findings about creative potential, and hands on workshops that utilized creativity-building techniques to solve challenges.