In this course students will work with an external partner on an applied research project and explore how that work can strengthen and deepen their liberal arts education. The projects will vary in nature and involve a combination of the following: helping the partner figure out questions to ask about a product, topic, or market; collecting data for a particular project or question; organizing or cleaning messy data; analyzing data with a range of statistical methods; and presenting the results of analysis through visualization or other methods.
Teams of 3-4 students will work on each partner's project. This work will use students' existing skills and knowledge, but also require students to learn new abilities. Indeed, a central course goal is teaching students how to learn on their own and respond nimbly to unexpected needs and challenges - which will definitely arise while working on the external partner's project. During the semester, students will also improve their ability to collaborate with their team and the external partner. By the end of the semester, each student team will produce a concrete product for the external partner, such as a market analysis with research questions to explore, an original dataset with accompanying summary, or a visualization of sophisticated data analysis.
The course is also intended to help students understand and experience how some of the core attributes of a liberal arts education - critical thinking, creativity, intellectual dexterity, appreciation of competing viewpoints, effective communication - can be applied, strengthened, and deepened in their work beyond campus. The external partner projects will require students to use these attributes in multiple ways. In addition, two assignments will require students to reflect on this interaction between the project work and a liberal arts education. These reflections will deepen the students' learning, while helping the College understand how these applied research experiences can enhance a liberal arts education.
While no specific courses are required as prerequisites, students enrolling in the seminar should have some prior experience in designing research projects, creating data sets, conducting statistical analysis, or visualizing data.