Disrupting Higher Education

How the ICSS is changing the way we teach.


Corporate Leadership in an Academic Setting

We strongly believe that higher education gives students one core opportunity - the chance to fail and learn in a safe environment. However, traditional higher ed tends to systematically shelter students from the 'real world', consigning them to work on practice problems and hypothetical experiments. ICSS does away with this dated paradigm, thrusting our students into the roles of project managers, recruitment directors, lab leads, software developers, and other roles traditionally not encountered until post-graduation. With faculty guidance, students in ICSS work directly with external funders to define and solve problems, build their own student teams to overcome obstacles, and manage everything from IT infrastructure to team morale. Deliverables have meaning and failure happens - with failure resulting in the best learning experience we can provide.


Credit Where Credit is Due

Our students are more than just lab rats or data junkies - they are coauthors and collaborators. We reject the notion that ideation should be the sole rationale for credit - the hundreds or thousands of hours that go into an analysis, dataset, or visualization are every bit as critical to the production of knowledge. When we publish, it is as a group - some of our papers have more than 10 co-authors, indicating the contributions of everyone involved. We argue this fosters a sense of collective responsibility and ownership - and is also just the right thing to do!


Core Skill Development

Students in ISCC projects learn three core types of skills: (a) problem definition; (b) solution identification; (c) solution implementation. These core skills are desinged with one outcome in mind: to prepare students to solve the problems our own external partners have! As a compliment to traditional coursework, the lessons learned in ISCC are focused around action. Key elements include:

  • Problem Definition. Learning about the challenges faced by partners, and proposing a range of problems that could be solved to improve their workflows, supply chains, or activities. Our student teams regularly meet with faculty and partners early on in their time within ICSS to observe and learn about this process, and our team leads directly engage with this process later in their academic careers.
  • Solution Identification. Learning about how to identify a range of potential solutions to a given problem, and then how to negotiate or select an appropriate solution given time, resource, or other constraints. Our students are involved with this process from day 1 as they work on individual projects, and as team leads managing the time of other students.
  • Solution Implementation. Students work both individually and, later in their academic careers, as team leads to implement solutions of varying scales. Students learn how to allocate time, configure computational resources, recruit appropriate skills, and communicate results as a part of deliverable creation.
Are you at William & Mary and interested in getting involved with the ICSS? Current opportunities can be viewed on our Projects & People page: