The arts and engineering came together in a unique way to help Engineering students sharpen their innovation skills and a Medgar Evers College English professor had a key role. Assistant English Professor Darrel Alejandro Holnes was part of a global engineering summer program at Zhejiang University of Technology (ZJUT). The program is a partnership between ZJUT in Hangzhou, China, and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and included Dr. Ethan Eagle from the University of Maryland and Professor Holnes. The study abroad course was designed to help engineering students develop skills in cross-cultural communication and effective teamwork. Holnes and Eagle supported the students innovation in sustainability training with a weeklong session titled, Engineering as Ensemble Practice.
It takes an entire ensemble of actors to tell a single story. Similarly, it takes an entire team to innovate. Holnes added, Understanding and sensing the rhythms of the team you are a part of is a key principle.
One exercise the students engaged in was mirroring ensemble exercises. Students lined up facing one another, one student was the leader, and the other would duplicate the leader moves. After each exercise there was discussion and short writing assignments where students could share what they learned as it relates to working with a team to create innovative engineering projects. The course also placed emphasis on working creatively in a diverse team. Additionally, Holnes developed a part of the course that focused on helping students navigate conflict.
Engineering students engaged in mirroring exercises
When they did the exercises, conflicts occurred but they worked through those conflicts to complete the exercises, said Holnes. Collaboration is essential to my teaching theater and playwriting at NYU and Medgar Evers College.