Currently at The New School connections are emerging between graduate programs across the various divisions. In different ways, each node in this emerging network is forming within a climate of cross-disciplinary research and practice; and each is responding to seismic shifts in disciplines by exploring new norms and forms of practice. In order to understand the complex challenges of our times, and to respond in ways that can address that complexity, we need to find new ways to teach, learn and practice.

IMG_0307 (2)This is a healthy evolution in higher education. At The New School, this has resulted in robust initiatives and collaborations around topics such as social innovation, big data, food justice, and transformative media…to name just a few. Together, they frame the possibility of new kinds of teaching and research that bridge across not only disciplines, but also schools and divisions within The New School. They are reacting in immediate ways to transformations in research, professional, governmental, and social infrastructures, in the broadest sense of the term.

For this reason, there is a sense of urgency in proactively responding to these changes with new approaches and alternative modes of teaching and learning. To do this, The New School is launching a series of University Transdisciplinary Labs (UTransLabs) that bring together faculty and graduate students from across the various divisional programs together with external partners to forge new practices. The UTransLabs are organized around four University Transdisciplinary Thematics: transformative media tactics; urban ecosystems; teaching and learning; and emergent economies.

In 2015 we launched the first UTransLab, Civic Innovation, with 13 students from disciplines as diverse as Anthropology, Design and Technology, Media Studies, Nonprofit Management, Organizational Change Management, and Transdisciplinary Design. Led by faculty from Parsons School of Design and The New School for Public Engagement, their aim was to explore ways in which public service design, collaborative organizational platforms and collaborative governance and leadership are reshaping the public and, in the process, the private sector as well. In 2016, we will launch our second Lab—Designed Realities—a space in which design, policy, social theory, and media can serve as catalysts for interdisciplinary imagining and social dreaming.