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MSLCE Students Challenged to Collaborate in Teamwork Seminar

By Joe Giovannetti

Just one day after orientation, 35 eager students arrived on campus for their first full-day professional seminar.  None expected the diverse challenges that the day would bring.

On Oct. 2, Gail Berger, Assistant Professor of Instruction from the McCormick School of Engineering, led the MSLCE cohort in a Professional Teamwork Seminar. The workshop was designed to build the students’ collaboration skills through a set of unique puzzles and activities.

Berger began by passing out a single piece of paper to each student, each with one vague piece of information written on it. Her direction was simple: the group had forty-five minutes to complete the task written on their paper using only verbal communication. With that, Berger exited the room and left the group to their task.

For the next forty-five minutes, the students, all of whom had met only the previous day, found themselves engrossed in a complicated word puzzle that would test the limits of their ability to strategize, communicate, and use reasoning skills. The tension in the air was often tangible: they had unexpectedly walked into their first leadership exam. Would they be able to work together to pass the test?

When Berger returned, she was ecstatic to find that the answer was yes: the new MSLCE cohort had passed.

Berger led similar activities throughout the rest of the workshop. One noteworthy example included a competitive game that pit groups against each other to construct an exact replica of a LEGO-man in the shortest amount of time. Berger used these activities as a vehicle to present numerous aspects of leading and managing creative enterprises: building team charters, active planning, and knowledge of learning are just a few examples.

At the conclusion of the workshop, students gathered around a large, blank sheet of paper and each wrote one new idea they had gained about leadership. The result allowed the students to visually process the events of the day, and reflect on how they could use these ideas throughout the remainder of the program.

The 2016-2017 MSCLE team left Berger’s workshop with a new appreciation for the term “teamwork.” If this was what the first day of the program held, it is sure to be an intellectually stimulating year at Northwestern University.

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