Mendoza School of Business

Foresight course faculty members win IBM Smarter Planet award

Published: May 5, 2011 / Author: Carol Elliott

Imagine a city where all the major elements of the infrastructure
– transportation, utilities, technology – operate according to a “smart” plan,
an integrated approach that conserves resources, accommodates growth and
optimizes lifestyles.

Now consider how you would train today’s college students to
develop those smart plans for the cities of the future – plans that draw ideas
from business, science, IT technology and the liberal arts.

A team of University of Notre Dame business professors recently
won an IBM Smarter
Planet Faculty Innovation Award
with their proposal, “Foresight for a
Smarter Planet: Toward the City Sustainable.” Suzanne Coshow, Chad Harms and Samuel
, all associate professional specialists, teach a pioneering future
studies course at the Mendoza College of Business, Foresight in Business and
Society. IBM provides mentors to undergraduate student research teams in the
Foresight class.

“One of the reasons IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative in particular
is a great opportunity for us is that it requires cross-boundary,
cross-function, cross-system collaboration and understanding, which is more
than anything what the Foresight course accomplishes,” said Coshow. “We want
our students to appreciate the big picture.”

IBM gave out a total of 50 of the $10,000 Faculty Innovation

“We need to focus on developing more advanced skills so that
students around the world are equipped to tackle real-world issues when they enter
the workforce,” said Jim Corgel, general manager of IBM Academic and Developer
Relations. “The work of these 50 award recipients should help change the face
of education by enabling students to work on pressing issues facing cities
today – and at the same time prepare them for leadership in industries like
health care and transportation.”

 The Notre Dame proposal
lays out a plan for a teaching module aimed at helping students utilize
foresight skills – trend analysis, systems management and problem solving
toward a “preferred” future – in such a way that the curriculum can be used by
a broad array of disciplines. It combines these skills with IBM’s extensive
online library and interactive city-planning game, CityOne, for a module that
can either be used as a stand-alone course element, or could provide a
framework for an entire course.

The proposal calls for a team project that involves break-out
groups focusing on different aspects of city planning, such as water, energy,
transportation and housing. The teams research and develop plans centered on
sustainability, utilizing various future scenarios. Their recommendations are
then presented to the entire class, in order to address systems overlap and
impacts. Together, class members then articulate insights and ideas toward the
“City Sustainable” – a new city structure that employs more efficient use of
resources, better growth plans and more citizen engagement.

Criteria for the Smarter Cities Skills Award submissions included
a focus on steps that city leaders can take in transforming their municipalities
to meet future needs in a more efficient way that has a positive impact on the
lifestyle of their citizens. This includes such issues as the development of
information technology in core city systems, becoming citizen-centric in
provided services, and spurring creativity and knowledge-driven growth.

Foresight in Business and Society, a signature course at the
Mendoza College that launched in fall 2009, focuses on the major trends
expected to shape the world, and provides students with a framework for how to
think critically about change and plan for it. 
Given the dramatic shifts in society and business, particularly in the
past decade, foresight skills should be considered fundamental for business
leadership, said Carolyn Y.
, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College.

“You cannot lead if you don’t know what is coming at you, and
where the opportunities for growth are,” said Woo. “Foresight in Business and
Society exposes students to trends and helps them develop critical assessment
skills, so they can understand the actions necessary for solving the
big-picture issues.”

More information about IBM Smarter Planet Faculty
Innovation Awards is available at:

A video about the award-winning proposal from Mendoza
College Foresight team is available at

Contact Suzanne Coshow, (574) 631-0291 or


Topics: Main, Undergrad