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Active Participant

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Michael Brown joined me on campus to visit a variety of Notre Dame classes and work with faculty here on new curriculum for next semester.  Michael is Vice President of Global UX and Design at SAP and his expertise ranges from Design Thinking to Visual Communications to entrepreneurship among many other interests.  The main purpose of his visit was to begin shaping a new “Collaborative Product Development” course with the Notre Dame faculty but we also visited several classes to observe and engage with students.


Michael is working directly with Notre Dame’s Ann-Marie Conrado to redesign a course project around “The Future of Wearables”.  The class will include students from six different academic disciplines working in teams as described below.

  • Collaborative Product Development: This cross-disciplinary course will develop and harness useful innovation through an association of expertise from business/marketing, management entrepreneurship, chemistry, engineering, anthropology, graphic design, and industrial design. Collaborating teams of graduate and undergraduate students will engage several product development cycles, beginning with an identification of need or opportunity and concluding with comprehensive proof of concept, tests of function, specified manufacturing processes, and an appropriately resolved, aesthetically pleasing product or system. All collaborative team members will be engaged throughout the research and developmental process. Each participant will share in rotating leadership responsibilities, providing direction within their specific areas of expertise and in the context of a sequential course outline.

To take full advantage of Michael’s visit, we connected with students and faculty in several ways described below.

  • We visited the Industry Practice Course:  This advanced level studio is directed toward the product design student who is preparing to enter either graduate school or professional practice. Fulfillment of this studio requires the completion of one research and design project. In addition, portfolios and resumes are prepared. Emphasis is placed on knowledge, analytical skills, logic, creativity, and excellence in visual communication.  Students are in the midst of a two-week challenge to design a new museum space in South Bend.
  • Michael spoke to two sections of Innovation & Design led by Wendy Angst.  The course overview states that Innovation is about creating new ideas that have a positive impact. It requires thinking differently about the world around us.  The course covers the key principles and the innovation processes that lead to breakthroughs and the practices that make them work. Students learn about design and design thinking in ways that can be used to solve big problems in a human centered way.  Michael shared personal experiences and principles of breakthrough design with the students.
  • We visited with Dr. Nitesh Chawla who leads iCeNSA, an interdisciplinary research center organized around network science problems in social, biological, biochemical, physical, environmental, financial, organizational, technical and defense systems.  We discussed some of the ongoing SAP-ND big data analytics co-innovation projects.
  • We enjoyed a very dynamic visit with students in the Visual Communication Design course led by Andre Murnieks.  The students study motion design using kinetic messages:  Exploration of narrative, visual and aural principles to best convey a time-based message through a series of project assignments. Effective use of motion graphics through sketching, storyboarding, kinetic type, animation, narration and soundtracks. Media delivery may include digital signage, web, broadcast and other public venues such as a planetarium. Survey of the technological aspects to motion media including principles of digital animation, video output devices, and planning for application in a space.
  • Another connection was with Dr.Sunny Shah an Assistant Director and Faculty for the ESTEEM Graduate Program.  ESTEEM is an innovative 11-month entrepreneurship master’s program designed to equip a person with the specific skills required to launch a business. Unlike the traditional M.B.A., an entrepreneurship master’s focuses on the direct application of business skills to an entrepreneurial environment. ESTEEM sets itself apart from other entrepreneur master’s programs by putting students in the middle of real-time startup development. In addition, a wide network of investors and alumni is available to help launch ventures inspired by students' capstone projects.  We discussed future curriculum collaboration and an upcoming ND student visit to Palo Alto.

The other key classroom experience for our visit was the Strategic IT course led by Dr. Corey Angst.  SAP is sponsoring the student project this semester.  Students choose a specific wearable and an industry (or a specific firm) and identify places within the entire supply/value chain of the firm where a specific wearable could yield benefits.  Michael and I will be back to the class on March 2nd for final student team presentations.  The course description is included below.

  • Strategic IT:  While Amazon and Dell used the internet to create new retailing business models, that same technology was instrumental in destroying the business models of the telephone and music industries. What caused the difference? We'll examine how to use IT for competitive advantage in a digital economy. We'll explore how IT improves problem solving, productivity, quality, customer service, and process reengineering. We'll also examine how to apply current technologies in innovative ways to impact an organization's bottom line.

A big thank you goes out to Michael Brown for visiting and taking the time to engage directly with students and faculty here at Notre Dame.  We plan to do some exciting things together!