Graduate Program Helps Solve Local Problems

By Sarah Shipley (Daily Texan Staff)
Daily Texan
September 27, 2001

The UT Graduate School has implemented a program designed to facilitate cross-disciplinary communication among specialists within the University and the Austin area.

"Synergy groups" will bring together people from various academic disciplines and sectors of society to focus on solving specific Austin-area problems, such as affordable housing and living wages.

The groups are part of the University's Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program, which serves to aid graduate students in applying their expertise to help solve problems locally.

Richard Cherwitz, a communication studies professor and IEP director, said the new groups will benefit society in general because they will be able to cull together different perspectives, developing a broader solution to mankind's problems.

The first group, which will likely hold its first meeting in the next few weeks, will address health issues, he said.

Leslie Jarmon, an IEP lecturer, said each of these groups will bring different "forces of energy" and perspectives together to focus on a concrete issue, which can be difficult given the organization of the University.

"In the University infrastructure, we stay in our own camps," Jarmon said. "It sets up barriers for us to work across disciplines."

IEP, which was introduced as a pilot program in the summer of 1997 by Cherwitz, consists of 16 classes offered by the Graduate School, the synergy groups and Preparing Future Faculty - a program that places graduate students in internships at five nearby universities.

Thomas Darwin, IEP Coordinator and Cherwitz's partner in creating the synergy groups, said there is a common thread that runs throughout the IEP classes and its programs.

"The philosophy is to give graduate students skills, motivation and help to think as broadly as they can for opportunities for themselves and the community," Darwin said.