Creating a Transdisciplinary Virtual Educational Resource Center

Apply for FEW Graduate Scholars Program

More and more academics are recognizing the power of transdisciplinary research for developing impactful solutions that are inclusive, contextually and culturally appropriate, and sustainable. Developing skills for conducting this research is not traditionally a part of graduate education. The INFEWS-ER project is developing a combination of toolbox modules for skill development and cohort challenges for applying these skills and knowledge. Students may repeat an experience and serve as mentors to new cohorts. INFEWS-ER hosted eight cohort challenges between 2018-21.

Your challenge: The next step of the INFEWS-ER is to develop a virtual resource center (VRC) that provides a blueprint for others to develop their own transdisciplinary cohort challenges. Your challenge is to work with stakeholders as part of a multi-disciplinary team to design and develop the VRC by curating existing INFEWS-ER resources and experiences. The VRC should not only be a place where researchers can find and access resources, but also connect, interact, contribute, and provide constructive input.

Who should participate? We are looking for people with skills (or interest) in one or more of the following: leadership, education, communication, computer science, software engineering, the nexus of food, energy, and water systems (FEWS), science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, assessment and evaluation, instructional design, library sciences, geospatial data, project management, and coding among others. Participants can come from many fields including biological or natural sciences, social sciences, economics, engineering or more.

The impact of your work? You will contribute to the evolution of graduate education toward collaborative, transdisciplinary approaches to help address grand challenges in FEWS related fields and beyond.

Cohort facilitators:

Cohort mentors: (coming soon!)


When? The Cohort Challenge consists of virtual weekly meetings after the start of the spring term (starting week of January 17), including a face-to-face* symposium in Chicago (March), and conclude by May 2022.

Where? Students will experience the Cohort Challenge virtually through Zoom, Google Drive, and Moodle. One three day face-to-face* Capstone Symposium is anticipated during March 2022.

*If concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic preclude a face-to-face event, a virtual symposium will be held in its place.

How Much Time Will I Commit (student)?

Cohorts are designed to be roughly equivalent to a three-credit-hour course for those on a semester system (4.5 credit hours for those on a trimester system). We encourage students to work with their advisors to build this into their academic plans as a 3-credit hour special problems course. A full course syllabus and description are available for documentation requirements.

Prior challenges included 15-16 scheduled (minimum of one hour) video conference sessions (occurring mostly weekly) with the cohort mentors and guest speakers. Most student cohorts eventually organized meeting times on their own to work on their final product. Individual participants conducted research to develop their contribution to the final product. Several cohorts have proceeded to write, submit, and publish peer-reviewed manuscripts for publication.

What will you gain from this challenge?

Cohorts are encouraged to develop a final product (to be determined by the cohort) that can be added to the student’s CV or otherwise be included among their professional accomplishments. Products from past cohorts have included an educational website, journal article, recommendation report to policymakers, and others. There will be an opportunity for cohorts to contribute to an upcoming special journal issue sponsored by the INFEWS-ER project.

Students who complete the challenge will receive a certificate recognizing the development of transdisciplinary skills through this program. If interested, they can participate as mentors for future cohorts.

Each cohort has identified learning objectives and learning outcomes. These outcomes are focused on both development of interpersonal skills as well as technical skills.


Development of a Virtual Resource Center

  • Set the standard for use of wicked problems in instructional environments.
  • Identify the gaps in effective delivery of learning in virtual environments
  • Students will optimize interactions with content developers
  • Prepare others for success in transdisciplinary environments

Interdisciplinary Outcomes

  • Students will implement concepts specific to Systems Thinking;
  • Students will communicate effectively across disciplines;
  • Students will apply principles of “High Performing Teams”;
  • Students will design interactions that demonstrate the importance of engaging stakeholders and consider their perspectives.