Gwen Williams Prize 2019-2020 Recipients

Wicked Problems

Azenet Garza Caballero (Psychology), Dan Bedford (Geography), Kathleen Cadman (Nursing), Tracy Covey (Chemistry), Gail Niklason (Institutional Effectiveness), Barbara Wachocki (Botany), Melina Alexander (Education), Barrett Bonella (Social Work), Michael Cena (Education), Leah Murray (Political Science), K Stevenson (Visual Art & Design)

Through a pedagogy of active learning and engagement, students will develop the critical thinking and analytical skills to identify and implement integrated solutions to complex and multi-faceted world problems. Graduates of this program will be poised to improve communities and living conditions around the world.


Students will be able to:

1) Describe the limitations of addressing ‘Wicked Problems’ from a single perspective and be able to articulate the advantages of addressing these problems from multiple (academic) perspectives.
2) Analyze and synthesize ideas and information from multiple disciplinary sources and perspectives.
3) Demonstrate their ability to seek out potential solutions to “Wicked Problems” from areas outside of their personal (developing) expertise.
4) Select and apply appropriate tools from two or more disciplines to significant questions, issues, or problems that would benefit from interdisciplinary analysis.
5) Design, implement, and share results of an impact project aimed at addressing a “Wicked Problem” with at least two students from different disciplines.


- Critical and creative thinking
- Written and oral communication skills
- Collaboration and problem-solving skills
- Information literacy
- Scientific literacy
- Integration of theoretical disciplinary knowledge
- Civic knowledge and engagement skills
- Intercultural knowledge and competence
- Ethical reasoning and action, and social responsibility


The proposed minor is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to address wicked problems. Wicked problems are those that are extremely, if not impossible, to solve because the problem is interconnected and interdisciplinary in nature. The minor is meant to compliment any major with the goal of forming a cohort of students from different disciples working together to find solutions to a common wicked problem of their choosing. The goal is to guide student’s exploration of any wicked problem through sociocultural, economic, sustainable, and political lenses while also developing skills to empower them to become big problem solvers to become educated, actively engaged citizens, and future leaders. The courses in the minor will require a signature assignment that is likely to be integrative, reflective, and applied. Many of the student led projects will involve partnerships with OUR, Honors, CCEL, SPARC, and study abroad.

Advising will be an important component of this minor to ensure that students obtain the content knowledge of their discipline. The TWO pre-requisite Gen Ed integrative courses will help with recruitment but would also reduce the number of credit hours exclusive to the minor. Students would be required to apply to the minor through an essay describing the “Wicked Problem” they are passionate about and interested in addressing. There would be TWO new integrative courses exclusive to the minor to create common language for students who will be coming from different disciplines. In addition, the courses will help students develop the varying critical thinking skills as well as basic knowledge of systems, political structures, policies, advocacies, grant writing, persuasion, fundraising, ethics, and cultural sensitivity that will be required for impactful projects. Finally, students would be required to complete an Applied Impact Capstone project with at least one other student interested in the same Wicked Problem. They would have one planning and preparing CAPSTONE course and one year to implement and assess their project.