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Redesigning the Future Through a Liberal Arts & Sciences Education

In January 2020, Dr Min Jung Cho and Dr Annie Trevenen-Jones of LUC The Hague applied for the LUF - SVM (Stichting Verpakking en Milieu/ Foundation for Packaging and the Environment) grant. In June 2020 they were awarded a grant amounting to the sum of €75,000.

Trevenen-Jones’ interest lies in in everyday sustainability while Cho has extensive background both in and beyond academia in the field of global public health. Together their expertise and experience placed them firmly in the position as top candidates for this interdisciplinary research project.

Hazardous Household Waste

Their project titled; Problem-solving through design thinking in Liberal Arts and Science (LAS) education - Tackling wicked packaging at home is a collaborative research project that aims to understand the learning effect of design thinking for non-technical students in an interdisciplinary liberal arts and science (LAS) setting, through a health and sustainability case study of hazardous household waste (HHW) and its packaging.

The research project is the result of an accumulation of research efforts, endeavors and clinics run over the past three years. “Design thinking change i.e. new ways of doing things, new ways of living and introducing previously unimagined solutions for sustainable, healthy futures, leads the way in designing for people and planet in the 21st Century and beyond.“

Wicked Packaging

The interdisciplinary character of LAS education provides a rich context in which students can gain a deep understanding of complex global sustainability challenges. While the project is centered on hazardous household waste, it narrows its focus on packaging otherwise known as ‘Wicked Packaging’. This term refers to the health and sustainability challenges posed by the vehicle of such goods when discarded as mixed municipal waste.

The well recognized concept of a ‘wicked problem’ in household hazardous packaging is unique, hard to comprehensively both define and solve, and involves a diversity of stakeholders among other factors.

Dr. Min Jung Cho  and Dr. Annie Trevenen-Jones Discuss the Project:

Cho: “Solutions to ‘wicked packaging’ need technical inputs as well as interdisciplinary liberal arts and sciences contributions. Seeking to define the specific challenge people face in respect of their household hazardous packaging routines is the first phase in the design thinking process. This requires us to consider an intimate view of households as well as a wider systematic view of society and environment.”

Trevenen-Jones: “Design thinking is an iterative problem-solving framework, characterized by divergent and convergent thinking, and comprising five key phases viz.  empathize, define, ideate, test and develop a prototype (product, service or system). It directs empathetic, innovative, team-driven problem solving and focuses on people, challenges and technological possibilities in an era of social, economic and ecological transformation.''

Both Dr. Cho and Dr. Trevenen-Jones anticipate that the project will raise classroom level engagement with design thinking and will push students to improve their sensitivity towards problem identification. Furthermore, the pair look forward to the invitation they will extend to  the community (households and/or relevant stakeholders) from the Hague to define a community challenge associated household hazardous waste. They hope to create an education model that is both replicable and easily adaptable as an outcome of such engagement.

The research clinic will be run during semester two of the academic year 2020-2021.

Article written by Jayne Fitzgerald.

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