Knowledge Integration (KI) Minor

Posted by on Mar 11, 2011 in Blog, Knowledge Integration | No Comments

Most of you already know that I am doing a minor in knowledge integration, mainly because I don’t miss an opportunity to tell people about it even if they don’t want to know. As I had explained in my video earlier, Knowledge Integration is an interdisciplinary program that combines arts, design, and science to teach skills that will equip students to understand, solve problems, communicate effectively, and be able to adapt to a changing complex world. Why did I do it? Because I wanted to achieve something besides an engineering degree. I didn’t want to do the management science (MSci) option as its already being overused by many many engineers and besides when I go to business school, I will probably learn them again anyways. KI was initially introduced to me by my dad, Thank you dad. My dad is huge education enthusiast, for those who do get the pleasure of meeting him will know about his passion for education.

Coming back to my story, I almost didn’t end up doing KI, as I was very close to getting a job offer and had 3 interviews lined up but, gave up on that at the last second( in fact during one of my interviews actually) and went to meet somebody in KI. Luckily for me, I met Linda Carson, an epitome for the word knowledge integrator (you should follow her on twitter- @lccarson) who besides having multiple degrees under her belt, is currently doing her PhD. After chatting with Linda for ten minutes and I was convinced that this is what I really wanted to do. Hence, I started my most awesome term ever at university.

For a minor in KI, you need ten courses. I did five courses last term and I am currently doing one.
The 5 courses I did last term were,

1. Introduction to the Academy: Disciplines and Integrative Practices (INTEG 120)
2. Nature of knowledge A (INTEG 220)
3. Museum Course: Research and Design (INTEG 320)
4. Critical Thinking (PHIL 145)
5. Public Speaking (SPCOM 223).

If I were to pick my favorite of these courses, it would definitely be the public speaking course. It is not because the other courses were less interesting or fun, but I really found myself again doing this course. Very few courses can add that to their credit. The premise of the Public speaking course is that you give a few speeches, get chance to moderate and evaluate your classmates. I was terrified of public speaking and that is one reason that I choose that course and it ended up being my favorite. (Engineers if you are reading this, then take this course as its part of LIST D course electives)

I was pleasantly surprised with some of the assignments in KI. I would have done these projects even if it had not been graded, that’s how much fun it was. One such project was to make your goal/projection of where you want to be when you graduate and work backwards from that. I know there is not much need to do this in engineering but, I think every program should have similar assignments as it gets the students to start thinking about their future from 1st year onwards. Some of the other interesting projects I did were an interactive comparison chart, a comic strip, and designing a museum exhibition. One thing which was constant were verbal presentation requirements, so I was lucky enough to take the public speaking courses as I got to apply to pretty much every course.

The philosophy course, critical thinking is such as useful course that I am surprised it is not part of an engineering elective. It basically teaches us the way people reason, argue, make decisions and how easily they can be biased, flawed without ever knowing. As Professor Tim Kenyon, often says critical thinking is not a matter of sitting in the corner and thinking really hard, but it is a matter of knowing when to not trust yourself. The highlight of last term, besides the public speaking course would be the museum exhibition course. The museum exhibition is an 8 month long project where you as a group come up with a theme, topic, run a mock study, give presentations about your project, build posters, make a storyboard of your final design. The next 4 months (current term) is where we take our designs from the previous term, refine our ideas, run a large scale study and from our results we alter our decisions. We then go to the wood shop and make our exhibit designs come to life. We finally present the exhibits to the students, professors, prospects and even some big shots. The exhibition runs from March 14 to 16th.

I would be lying if i said it was an easy term throughout. I faced some difficulties with the program initially with respect to how the KI program functioned. I did not understand a lot of the terms, ideas presented in my upper year classes as they were initially introduced towards the beginning of the program. Since I was doing a minor, I was doing the first, second and third year courses at the same time. But, my group and classmates were very welcoming and I managed to settle in pretty soon. Another thing that was new to me was the amount of readings required for the courses. In engineering we seldom have readings and moreover we usually don’t do stuff that isn’t for grades as we are already pressed for time. So the engineer inside me ignored the readings initially and I was fine for first couple of days however, I soon found I could not participate in the class discussions( which by the way is so much more fun than it sounds, and one tends to learn a lot more when the courses are conversation based) at all and risked appearing like an fool. Since I was doing a minor I had to take all the core INTEG courses (which are pretty loaded each with heavy readings). There were days when I found myself reading hundreds of pages of scientific/philosophical papers. Finally, I wrote over 25 papers in one term(which is 20 times more than any of my other terms)

I am very glad that I choose to do my KI minor. I learned quite a few things from how to give effective speeches, running a study, designing a museum exhibition in Google sketch up and finally learning how much I didn’t know. As Avvaiyar, a famous Tamil poet once said “What we know is the size of a ocean droplet, but what we don’t know is the size of the Ocean itself”. Upon finishing last term I went on to give a speech at the house of friendship Christmas dinner party. Which had been attended by over 160 people and was very well received. I am pretty proud of myself for doing that and coming a long way since last term and yet this is just the beginning. In my next post, I will talk about the museum exhibition project that I have been working on for the past 7 months. It’s a very exciting time that I am living in. I would like to end this post by quoting a conversation I really like:

“Federico: It’s a good life we live brother.
Ezio: The best, may it never change.
Federico: And, may it never change us”

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