Emily Hill is an assistant professor of computer science.
Emily Hill is an assistant professor of computer science.

Professor develops curriculum with support from Project Pericles.

June 2017 – Are you controlling your phone or is your phone controlling you?

This timely question will serve as a springboard into the timeless issue of how humanity grapples with technology in a new course at Drew University.

The course, Innovation I, will challenge students to develop ideas for maximizing the benefits of technology while minimizing downsides. Assistant Professor of Computer Science Emily Hill developed the curriculum with a grant from the Periclean Faculty Leadership Program.

The grant came from Project Pericles, a consortium of 31 colleges and universities that promotes civic engagement and social responsibility. “It’s not just brainstorming about problems but talking about solutions,” explained Jan Liss, the consortium’s executive director.

Hill applied for the grant and was among just 13 awardees this year.

“We tend to look for something you would not expect,” Liss added. “People think of liberal arts as being quite siloed, but not in this case.”

Hill will co-teach Innovation I with Andrew Elliott, an associate professor of theatre arts.

Students will collaborate across disciplines and conduct research on and off campus. More specifically, the local business community will be engaged in addressing the “divide between technology makers and users,” Liss said.

The course, which was developed in collaboration with LaunchNJ—a non-profit that promotes entrepreneurship—will begin in the fall. It spans two semesters, with the first focused on brainstorming and planning and the second on sharing ideas with the outside world.

Innovation will be defined broadly and could include, for example, developing an app or creating art. “We want to see what interdisciplinary innovation looks like,” Hill said. “We are working to make this a robust program.”

Project Pericles was the brainchild of the late Eugene M. Lang, whose foundation, along with The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, supports the leadership program. Lang also founded the I Have a Dream Foundation, which helps low-income students attend college.