Innovation and Design and Religion?

Last year, my ‘Religion in the United States’ students had a simple semester project: find a lesser-known religious community in San Antonio, visit them, get to know them and learn about their religion, then do a presentation in class. I’m trying to add depth to this assignment in my second year teaching this class.

This year, my employer introduced ‘Innovation and Design’ (or ‘Design Thinking’; read ‘What is Design Innovation and Why You Need to Know’ if this is a new concept) curriculum to our school’s system. Admittedly, I was worried that this was a sign that we were putting more emphasis on STEM like so many other institutions who don’t care about the humanities. But I’ve decided that as a representative of the humanities I can either (A) fight STEM’s popularity or (B) prove that the humanities aren’t irrelevant but matter as much as STEM for our society and world.

Now, I’m not sure Innovation and Design (I&D, hereafter) is STEM, per se, but the labels are secondary to what I’m going to try to do. I’ve begun partnering with the faculty member that was hired to push our I&D identity and I’m beginning with last year’s semester project. Today, I met with my colleague and while we have a lot to work through (and get approved) it looks like my students will do something similar to what they did last year but (!) they’ll partner with I&D students so that our engagement with these communities is two-fold: (1) we get to know them, appreciate them, hear them, and share in their story while also (2) asking what project that particular community might like partner with us to address.

Now, what does this look like? Don’t know yet. But I’ll update you on this experiment-in-learning as Religious Studies meets I&D!


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