Sunday, March 23, 2008

Breaking Out of Silos

One problem that a lot of universities have is that each department is walled off from the others, and communication across departments is hard. (As you might imagine, communicationg with other schools is even harder.)

I think I may have accidentally discovered a way around this.

In my case, I teach game design classes that are typically dropped in some kind of multimedia department along with all the artists and animators, and finding an actual programmer in the bunch is like finding the needle in the proverbial haystack.

This quarter, I taught a class to programmers in their own department. (I did this for entirely selfish reasons: as an adjunct, taking on another course meant more pay. The fact that it let me speak to a room full of programming students so I could pimp my game design courses for next quarter was a nice bonus.)

The funny thing is, through the process of teaching this class, I met a lot of other faculty in the department, and they now see me as one of their own. I suspect the see me as "the guy who teaches Systems Analysis... oh, and he also does something with video games" rather than the other way around, and when they have students interested in games they know where to send them. This is not something that could have been done at the departmental level; it happened one-on-one, with me being right there in the trenches with the other faculty in a department that isn't my "home". I think I've built some bridges that just weren't there before, and I may try it again in the future.

By this time next year, I'll have taught classes at three different schools. It remains to be seen whether I can forge connections between them, but I'd like to. (This is especially important since my "main" employer right now is a community college, and we want to send our students to four-year schools when they're done here!)

Incidentally, this has another implication: if you're a professional developer considering a full-time switch to academia, having multiple skills (programming and game design, for example) is a huge benefit. It may or may not get you hired, but once you're in it might give you a foot in the door to teach one class in "that other department" -- and from there, maybe you can pull in a steady supply of interdisciplinary action right under everyone's nose.

No comments: