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  1. Disasters are becoming more frequent as the global climate changes, and recovery efforts require the cooperation and collaboration of experts and community members across disciplines. The DRRM program, funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship (NRT), is an interdisciplinary graduate program that brings together faculty and graduate students from across the university to develop new, transdisciplinary ways of solving disaster-related issues. The core team includes faculty from business, engineering, education, science, and urban planning fields. The overall objective of the program is to create a community of practice amongst the graduate students and faculty to improve understanding and support proactive decision-making related to disasters and disaster management. The specific educational objectives of the program are (1) context mastery and community building, (2) transdisciplinary integration and professional development, and (3) transdisciplinary research. The program’s educational research and assessment activities include program development, trainee learning and development, programmatic educational research, and institutional transformation. The program is now in its fourth year of student enrollment. Core courses on interdisciplinary research methods in disaster resilience are in place, engaging students in domain-specific research related to natural hazards, resilience, and recovery, and in methods of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration. In addition to courses,more »the program offers a range of professional development opportunities through seminars and workshops. Since the program’s inception, the core team has expanded both the numbers of faculty and students and the range of academic disciplines involved in the program, including individuals from additional science and engineering fields as well as those from natural resources and the social sciences. At the same time, the breadth of disciplines and the constraints of individual academic programs have posed substantial structural challenges in engaging students in the process of building interdisciplinary research identities and in building the infrastructure needed to sustain the program past the end of the grant. Our poster and paper will identify major program accomplishments, but also draw on interviews with students to examine the structural challenges and potential solution paths associated with a program of this breadth. Critical opportunities for sustainability and engagement have emerged through integration with a larger university-level center as well as through increased flexibility in program requirements and additional mechanisms for student and faculty collaboration.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. CONTEXT This exploratory study focuses on an interdisciplinary graduate program in the United Statesthat brings students from science, engineering, technology, or mathematics (STEM)programs together with students in business, policy and governance, natural resources, and other fields to address disaster resilience and risk management. Given the complexity of interdisciplinary collaboration and the need to work across disciplinary boundaries it is increasingly important to develop interdisciplinary capacity in STEM graduate students. PURPOSE OR GOAL The purpose of this exploratory study was to explore how participants conceptualize a possible identity as an interdisciplinary scholar over time in order to characterize the structural and individual factors that might prevent one from developing an interdisciplinary identity.
  3. Concept maps have emerged as a valid and reliable method for assessing deep conceptual understanding in engineering education within disciplines as well as interdisciplinary knowledge integration across disciplines. Most work on concept maps, however, focuses on undergraduates. In this paper, we use concept maps to examine changes in graduate students’ conceptual understanding and knowledge integration resulting from an interdisciplinary graduate program. Our study context is pair of foundational, team-taught courses in an interdisciplinary Disaster Resilience and Risk Management (DRRM) graduate program. The courses include a 3-hour research course and a 1-hour seminar that aim to build student understanding within and across Urban Affairs and Planning, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geosciences, and Business Information Technology. The courses introduce core principles of DRRM and relevant research methods in these disciplines, and drive students to understand the intersections of these disciplines in the context of planning for and responding to natural and human-made disasters. To understand graduate student growth from disciplinary-based to interdisciplinary scholars, we pose the research questions: 1) In what ways do graduate students’ understandings of DRRM change as a result of their introduction to an interdisciplinary graduate research program? and 2) To what extent and in what ways do conceptmore »maps serve as a tool to capture interdisciplinary learning in this context? Data includes pre/post concept maps centered on disaster resilience and risk management, a one-page explanation of the post-concept map, and ethnographic field notes gathered from class and faculty meetings. Pre-concept maps were collected on the first day of class; post-concept maps will be collected as part of the final course assignment. We assess the students’ concept maps for depth of conceptual understanding within disciplines and interdisciplinary competency across disciplines, using the field notes to provide explanatory context. The results presented in this paper support the inclusion of an explanation component to concept maps, and also suggest that concept maps alone may not be the best measure of student understanding of concepts within and across disciplines in this specific context. If similar programs wish to use concept maps as an assessment method, we suggest the inclusion of an explanation component and suggest providing explicit instructions that specify the intended audience. We also suggest using a holistic scoring method, as it is more likely to capture nuances in the concept maps than traditional scoring methods, which focus solely on counting factors like hierarchies and number of cross-links.« less