Systems and Solutions Certificate

Meghann Jarchow, University of South Dakota; Ranjeet John, University of South Dakota; Karen Koster, University of South Dakota; KC Santosh, University of South Dakota; Bess Vlaisavljevich, University of South Dakota

Description

The Systems and Solutions Certificate will prepare students from all disciplines to use systems thinking and STEM tools to model complex systems and to use design thinking to innovate and iterate toward solutions within these systems. We strive to educate and graduate the leaders who will solve the future’s most pressing challenges. Understanding and solving these challenges requires preparing students to create knowledge and innovate within complex systems. We propose undergraduate and graduate certificates in Systems and Solutions within the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of South Dakota.

The Systems and Solutions certificate will be composed of 10-13 credits of coursework. The certificate will comprise four courses: a foundational course that will introduce students to systems, systems thinking, and design thinking (3 credits); a course that teaches students to use STEM tools for data acquisition, analysis, and visualization (3 credits); a complementary humanities or social science course to reinforce trans-disciplinary knowledge (3-4 credits); and an experiential capstone that asks students to use their acquired skills and perspectives to solve a problem a societal problem (1-3 credits).

Goals of the Program

The goal of the Systems and Solutions Certificate is to prepare students to use systems thinking and STEM tools to model complex systems and to use design thinking to innovate and iterate toward solutions within these complex systems.

Example of systems diagram made using Stella software

Example of systems diagram made using Stella software

The STEM foundational goals are for students to use scientific knowledge and tools as part of a trans-disciplinary systems approach to problem solving, to foster problem-solving, critical thinking, develop data analysis and visualization skill, and to provide a foundation for advanced coursework (e.g. geospatial and artificial intelligence/machine learning techniques). The humanistic knowledge goals are for students to incorporate knowledge from the humanities and social science as part of the systems approach to solving challenging problems. The meta-knowledge goals are to prepare students to address complex challenges using creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, and intellectual risk taking and to encourage students to recognize their efficacy as change agents.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learning Outcome 1 (LO1)
    Students will recognize the temporal and spatial dynamics and interconnections among components within a complex system.
  • Learning Outcome 2 (LO2)
    Students will integrate ideas from sciences, social sciences, humanities, and technical aspects of systems.
  • Learning Outcome 3 (LO3)
    Students will construct a conceptual model to identify key components and leverage points within a complex system.
  • Learning Outcome 4 (LO4)
    Students will construct an implementation model to devise effective approaches to intervening in complex systems, situations, and processes.
  • Learning Outcome 5 (LO5)
    Students will recognize their self-efficacy as innovators and change agents.

Assessing Program Outcomes

  • Formative Assessment of Students: The introductory course will include assignments that address LO 1 through 4. Students will also begin keeping a journal with prompts asking them to reflect on their willingness and ability to effect change with respect to a societal problem and to describe their understanding of system complexity and how humanistic and scientific factors intertwine in the world.
  • Summative Assessment of Students: The capstone course or experience will culminate with a portfolio that includes components that address each learning outcome. Students will construct conceptual and implementation models that address LO 3 & 4 and will describe these with a narrative that addresses LO 1 & 2. For LO 5, students will keep a journal based on prompts that ask them to reflect on their willingness and ability to effect change with respect to a societal problem, on their experiences with any challenges encountered, and how these journal entries have changed compared to those made during the introductory course.

Program Details

Information about the design philosophy and course offerings and sequencing is available on the Program Details page.

Systems and Solutions Certificate Program Details

Meghann Jarchow, University of South Dakota; Ranjeet John, University of South Dakota; Karen Koster, University of South Dakota; KC Santosh, University of South Dakota; Bess Vlaisavljevich, University of South Dakota

Program Design

Overview

The Systems and Solutions Certificate will prepare students to use systems thinking and STEM tools to model complex systems and to use design thinking to innovate and iterate toward solutions within these complex systems.

Design Philosophy

Societal problems are multi-faceted and complex. Devising solutions to these problems requires a systems approach that integrates humanistic and scientific knowledge. This certificate in Systems and Solutions is designed to introduce students to concepts about systems thinking using real-world examples in an introductory course, then requires them to acquire a suite of STEM tools and humanistic understanding through intermediary coursework, culminating in a capstone project that requires students to integrate their knowledge via construction of conceptual and implementation models that address a societal problem.

Courses and Sequencing

Required Courses (10-13 Credits)

  • Introduction to Systems Thinking (3 credits): In this foundational course, students will be introduced to concepts of systems, systems thinking, design thinking, and conceptual modelling through the use of trans-disciplinary case studies.
  • A STEM Course that Introduces a Modern Tool for Solving Complex Problems (3 credits)
    • Introduction to Biostatistics & Computational Biology (BIOL 420/520, 3 credits)
    • Programming for Engineering & Science (CSC 170, 3 credits)
    • Introduction to Geographical Information Systems (ANTH/ESCI/POLS 425/525, 3 credits)
    • Remote Sensing (BIOL 484/585/L, 3 credits)
    • Data Analysis, Decision Making, and Visualization (CSC 457, 3 credits)
    • Advanced Chemical Characterization (CHEM 429/529/L, 3 credits)
    • Unmanned Aerial Systems (BIOL 492/592, 3 credits)
    • Analytics Programming Fundamentals (CSC 505, 3 credits)
    • Structural Equation Modeling (PSYC 492/592 or PSYC 775, 3 credits)
  • A Course Focused on Developing Trans-disciplinary Knowledge (3-4 credits)
    • For STEM Majors
      • Science Communication (SPCM 452/552, 3 credits)
      • Virtual Reality (PSYC 492/592)
      • Environmental Communication (SPCM 418/518, 3 credits)
      • Environmental Law and Policy (POLS 407/507, 3 credits)
      • Introduction to Public Policy (POLS 226, 3 credit)
      • Environmental Ethics (PHIL 454/554, 3 credits)
      • Upper-level humanistic course (3-4 credits, with coordinator approval)
    • For non-STEM Majors
      • Environmental Science (BIOL 310, 3 credits)
      • Virtual Reality (PSYC 492/592)
      • Introduction to River Studies (BIOL/ESCI 425/525, 3 credits)
      • Principles of Ecology (BIOL 311/L, 4 credits)
      • Fundamental Organic Chemistry (CHEM 310/L)
      • Environmental Chemistry (CHEM 482/582, 3 credits)
      • Global Climate Change (ESCI 416/516, 3 credits)
      • Energy and Sustainability (ESCI 415/515, 3 credits)
      • Upper-level STEM course (3-4 credits, with coordinator approval)
  • Capstone Course (1-3 credits): Students in the Certificate must complete the capstone project as their final course in the sequence. In this course, students will construct conceptual and implementation models that address a societal problem and will describe these with an explanatory narrative. Students will keep a journal based on prompts that ask them to reflect on their willingness and ability to effect change with respect to a societal problem, on their experiences with any challenges encountered, and how these journal entries have changed compared to those made during the introductory course.

National Science Foundation logo

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #1935479: Workshop on the Substance of STEM Education. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.