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Collaboration is par for the course

Amidst architectural blueprints and a meandering conversation about golf course topography, 14 Lehigh students sat around a boardroom last year poring over the details of the university's proposed 2,072-yard, nine-hole executive golf course.

The catch? Just one of these students had a connection to the game of golf. In fact, the boardroom was filled with an eclectic mix of engineering, finance, marketing, journalism and architecture students participating in an Integrated Learning Experience (ILE) class called Athletics Complex Design.

Before last fall, they may never have met each other—let alone picked up a three iron.

But after a slight correction to the placement of the irrigation pond just off the fourth tee, they were confident that their formal business plan for Lehigh's first on-campus golf course could, in fact, become a reality.

They had a reason to be optimistic. Students from a previous ILE project completed business plans that led to the development of the $2.4 million Ulrich Sports Complex, a multi-use facility on Lehigh's expansive Goodman Campus. Another cohort redesigned Lehigh's NCAA championship-level cross country track.

Collaboration is critical

Fast forward to October 2006.

A field on the northeast corner of Goodman Campus is being transformed into a new driving range and putting green (the result of an earlier ILE cohort). And while the details and funding for the proposed executive golf course are still being ironed out, this new construction is just the beginning of what may soon become a striking new golf complex for the Lehigh community.

To this point, the ILE class has had a pretty nice run during the more than a decade that it’s been in existence. Dean of Athletics Joe Sterrett and Vince Munley, Iacocca Professor of Business and Economics, teach the course one semester every year.

“It’s a unique opportunity for students to tackle something complex in the real world,” explains Sterrett. “It comes with a lot of responsibility, because if you do something wrong, it will have real-world consequences.”

Munley agrees. “Students are expected to go beyond their comfort zone. They learn something out of their own disciplines, and more importantly, how to work with people in other fields,” he says. “The program works because it’s interdisciplinary, and we try to seed that as much as possible.”

It may be the only classroom experience of its kind in the country. Lehigh’s ILE classes are designed specifically to replicate a real-world opportunity; each student contributes specific skills and talents, while bringing his or her educational expertise to the table.

In this class—just like on the court or in the field—collaboration is a critical component.

Planning for the future

So, what’s next?

Perhaps the program’s most ambitious project yet. Sterrett and Munley are asking the students to plan strategies around Goodman Campus’ master plan model and utility analysis.

After 45 years of growth and intensive use, the sprawling fields that make up Goodman Campus continue to evolve. Studies already conducted by outside consultants have included infrastructure recommendations, new field developments, and aesthetic enhancements to current Goodman Campus venues.

Students are being asked to develop space assignment plans to assess possible environmental impacts and cost implications. They’ll also need to translate these future plans into a three-dimensional, accurately scaled relief model that can be displayed in Taylor Gym for the campus and its athletics community to view.

It’s an opportunity that will require a high level of integration and an open mind—both hallmarks of the unusual program.

“Although we do have some projects on campus with three accountants working together or three civil engineers working together, we believe that is not the only way the world works,” Munley says.

--Tom Yencho

Posted on Tuesday, October 03, 2006

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