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Collaborative Innovation Concentration

students collaborate on a project

For any Smithie who wants to change something for the better!

To make real change, you will have to work with other people to understand and address complex challenges, and the Collaborative Innovation concentration will help you build the skills and capacities you need to do that effectively.

Collaborative Innovation concentrators:

  • Gain practical experience to develop skills for working with others to solve problems ethically and equitably
  • Critique and reimagine dominant frameworks for leadership, design, and entrepreneurship
  • Explore the connections between academic pathways and change-making careers

We invite all majors to apply.

The best innovations grow out of collaborations that include diverse perspectives. The world needs problem solvers from the humanities, social sciences, and STEM.


Fall 2023 Application Deadline is October 13

The Fall 2023 deadline to apply to become a Collaborative Innovation concentrator is October 13! See below for more information about eligibility and requirements, and for the application form. Feel free to reach out to Megan Lyster, CIX co-director, with any questions:

Information About the Concentation

For information about the concentrations, please join us at the Presentation of the Concentrations. Register: Register to attend.


The Collaborative Innovation Concentration is limited to 15 students per class year. Sophomores, juniors and Ada Comstock Scholars are encouraged to apply. The selection of concentrators is based on academic performance, intentionality and commitment, and diversity of the cohort. Collaborative Innovation concentrators design their path in consultation with their adviser, choosing courses relevant to their interests and needs.

Core Courses

Core courses are required for all concentrators, and serve to introduce students to the foundational theories and practices that will support their development as collaborative innovators.

CIX 101 Introduction to Collaborative Innovation (2 credits)
This course introduces students to key frameworks and theoretical concepts within the domains of collaborative leadership, human-centered design, and entrepreneurial innovation and critically considers these practices and their impact in the world. Students will engage with guest speakers who are working within diverse fields and roles to examine and explore these concepts within a real-world context. Students will engage in hands-on exercises and assignments that introduce ways of working within these domains, and reflect on relationships between these domains and their own disciplinary work. This course is the Gateway for the Collaborative Innovation Concentration, but is open to all students.

DRAFT syllabus (subject to change)

IDP 133 Critical Perspectives on Collaborative Leadership (4 credits)
Traditional conceptions of leadership set up leading and working as a team as diametrically opposed; “leaders” are often conceptualized as those who achieve greatness through their own powers of persuasion or individual achievement, while “teams” are often framed as leaderless efforts that move forward by virtue of dispersed contributions to a given project or initiative. This course challenges students to interrogate this perceived dichotomy by viewing theories and histories of leadership and collaboration through a critical lens and exploring alternative ways of imagining change-making as a collaborative leadership act. Through reading, writing, reflection and practice, the class will offer students new perspectives on how they might bring others into collaboration by intentionally creating a productive team culture and modeling processes that encourage others to step in and out of the lead. 

Recommended Courses

These 1-credit courses, while not required, are strongly recommended as opportunities to plan and reflect on your Smith pathway (including your concentration experience and how it will support your broader goals and interests at Smith).

IDP 132 Designing Your Path (1 credit)
Whether you are starting your Smith journey, embarking on or returning from an immersive experience abroad, weaving your interests through a Concentration or self-designed major, or wrestling with expressing what a Smith education has prepared you to do, this is the class for you. Test different integrative paths of your own design, tell your own story, and create a digital portfolio to showcase your work. By the end of class, you will be able to articulate connections between your work in and outside of the classroom, and to explain how Smith is preparing you to engage with the world beyond. 

IDP 232 Articulating Your Path (1 credit)
Articulating Your Path is for students who have completed IDP132 Designing Your Path or another Smith experience that allowed for reflection on curricular and experiential work, values and goals. Here, students will begin to look outward. After reviewing and assessing important learning experiences, you will conduct qualitative interviews to gain a multidimensional understanding of your discipline in the world. At the same time, you will create a "personal syllabus," a reflection on maintaining and pursuing curiosity. Finally, you will make a narrative digital portfolio and gain experience with public voice through an op-ed, TED talk or other piece of media.

Electives in the Concentration

Concentrators will work with their advisor to choose three 4-credit elective courses offered within the Five Colleges. These courses should meet some combination of the following criteria, as appropriate to the concentrator’s interests and needs:

  • Critically engages ethics of practice within a discipline;
  • Incorporates a team-based, experiential learning project that emphasizes applied problem solving;
  • Explores social theories of identity and power; and/or
  • Works with complementary methodologies
  • Examines systems and contexts

To encourage engagement across the liberal arts at Smith and to support students in connecting that breadth to their concentration, at least two electives must be taken from divisions other than the student’s major division. It is expected that students will take at least two of the electives after admittance to the concentration

Sample Electives

Please note: This list of courses is meant to provide examples of the types of courses CIX concentrators might consider as electives. Students are NOT limited to this list and should discuss electives that best fit their needs and interests with their adviser. 

Some of these courses might have prerequisites or be limited to majors, and therefore may not be open to all students, but can serve as examples of the types of courses you might explore.

Critically engages ethics of practice within a discipline
REL/PHI 108 Meaning of Life 
FYS 144 Science and Society 
FYS 189 Data and Social Justice 
PHI 204 Philosophy and Design 
REL 207 Morals vs. Markets 
ECO 223 Introduction to Political Economy 
ECO 224 Environmental Economics 
ANT 233 History of Anthropological Theory 
PHI 238 Environmental Ethics
PSY 267 Colloquium: Moral Psychology 
PHI 304 Seminar in Applied Ethics 
CSC 325 Responsible Computing
CSC 356 Platform Activism
ECO 364 Seminar: The Economics of Future Technology 

Incorporates a team-based, experiential learning project that emphasizes applied problem solving
EGR 100 Engineering for Everyone 
FYS 142 Reacting to the Past 
AMS 202 Methods in American Studies  
CSC 223 Introduction to Software Engineering
PSY 240 Colloquium: Health Promotion 
BIO 302 Developmental Biology 
BIO 303 Research in Developmental Biology 
BIO 323 Seminar: Topics in Developmental Biology Building a Brain
IDP 316 [Critical] Design Thinking Studio
BIO 340 Colloquium: Topics in Public Health-Pandemics
SDS 410 Capstone in Statistical & Data Sciences 

Explores social theories of identity and power
ENV 101 Sustainability and Social-Ecological Systems 
ENG 118 Colloquium in Writing: Liberating the Future 
AFR 155 Introduction to Black Women’s Studies 
PSY 170 Social Psychology 
EDC 200 Critical Perspectives in Urban Education 
AFR 202 Topics in Africana Studies-Anthropology and the African Diaspora 
SWG 222 Gender, Law and Policy 
AMS 239 Colloquium: The Culture Wars
PSY 263 Colloquium: Psychology of the Black Experience 
PSY 266 Colloquium: Psychology of Women and Gender
SOC 333 Seminar: Social Justice, the Environment and the Corporation 
PSY 345 Feminist Perspectives on Psychological Science 
PSY 375 Research Seminar : Political Psychology 

Works with complementary methodologies
REL 200 Approaches to the Study of Religion
SOC 233 Sociology of Climate Change
SDS 237 Data Ethnography
ANT 249 Visual Anthropology 
ANT 257 Urban Anthropology
ART/ARS 370 Topics in Installation Art: Unforgotten—Memory and Socially Engaged Art 
ARS/IDP 200 Art and Design: Futures Beyond Capitalism

Examines systems and contexts
BIO 101 Modern Biology for the Concerned Citizen 
ENV 101 Sustainability and Social-Ecological Systems
PHY 110 Energy, Environment and Climate
ENV 113 Colloquium: Organic, Mechanical and Digital Environments 
SOC 230 Sociology of Food 
GOV 233 Problems in Political Development
FMS 262 Television Without Borders: TV Flows Across the World
FMS 271 Understanding Media Industries 
ENV 327 Environmental Justice in an Urbanizing World

Practical Experience Requirements

Collaborative Innovation concentrators will complete two distinct practical experiences, chosen in consultation with their advisor and with support and guidance from campus resources such as the Lazarus Center. These experiences are integral opportunities to support the integration of disciplinary knowledge, creative problem solving, and collaboration with others in a real-world context. Eligible practical experiences may include internships, paid or unpaid volunteer work, or immersive design or entrepreneurship programs. 

Each practicum will require between 120–220 hours of work, to be completed in one semester, over interterm or during the summer. A for-credit elective counting towards the concentration may not also count as a practicum. 

At the end of each experience, students will submit an appropriate form of documentation of their work (to be determined with their advisor) and write a brief paper reflecting on what they have learned about specific methodologies or practices (including what they find compelling and what gives them pause), what they have learned about themselves, and what they are most curious about as a result of the experience.

All students participating in a practical experience at a given time will also have the opportunity to participate in 2–3 cohort conversations over the course of their experience. These conversations will help students build relationships with others who are engaging in practical experiences at the same time, while introducing structured reflection throughout the experience.

Capstone Course

Collaborative Innovation Capstone (4 credits)
As the capstone for the Collaborative Innovation Concentration, this course will ask students to put into practice various skills for collaborative and creative problem solving to develop potential solutions to complex challenges. Through a semester-long, real-world collaborative project, this course will provide students the space to adapt and apply skills grounded in entrepreneurial mindsets, design thinking, and collaborative leadership. Students will also practice the integration of their disciplinary knowledge as a core component of their team’s approach. Students will consider the ethics of leading teams working to develop interventions for complex problems, practice navigating ambiguity, and develop skills for decision making grounded in awareness of themselves and others, as well as the contexts in which problems are situated.

In exceptional circumstances, a student may submit a petition for Advisory Committee approval of an alternative capstone to substitute for this requirement.


Declaration of Concentration

Students who have been accepted into the concentration and received their adviser’s name need to fill out the
→ Program of Study Declaration Form.
This is the last step in making the concentration official in Workday.

Practical Experience Forms

After discussing the proposed practical experience with their advisers, students need to fill out the corresponding practical experience approval form in order to have the experience count towards the concentration requirements:

  • Summer Internship (100 hours or more) → Internship Credit Application
    All students undertaking a summer internship of at least 100 hours are eligible to receive academic credit (0.25 credits per experience) that will appear on their transcript. We encourage all students who qualify to apply for internship credit. Students applying for Praxis funding don’t need to fill out this form, and should instead use the “Praxis with Credit” form below.
  • Unpaid Summer Internship (220 hours or more) → Praxis with Credit Application
    All Smith students are eligible to receive a stipend payment for one normally unpaid internship through the Praxis program at the Lazarus Center. These internships must take place during the summer, and must comprise at least 220 working hours. Students in Concentrations are eligible to apply for Praxis a second time– Praxis Plus. When applying for a Praxis internship, the applicant must specify if the internship counts towards a concentration and should fill out the “Praxis with Credit” application.
  • Other Internships and Practical Experiences
    Students whose internships do not meet the above requirements because they take place during Interterm, during the school year, or for any other reason, should fill out the following forms.
    Prior to starting the internship please fill out the → Practical Experience Approval Form.
    Upon completion of the practical experience please fill out the → Practical Experience Completion Form.
  • Retroactive Credit for an Experience
    Students who completed a practical experience relevant to the concentration prior to being accepted into the cohort should discuss the experience with their concentration adviser as soon as possible. Once the experience is approved, students must fill out the  Practical Experience Completion Form and check the “Retroactive Experience” box on the form.

Advising Checklist for Graduation

Students are required to submit a completed Concentration Advising Checklist at the start of their final semester. This form documents the completed components of the concentration requirements, and must be signed by the student’s concentration adviser. Completed form should be sent to the registrar’s office ( and to the administrative coordinator for concentrations (

Practical Experience Information

The Integrative Learning units sponsor a number of co-curricular experiences that might serve as practical experiences for the concentration. Examples include:

Students are welcome to work with their advisor to find practical experiences outside of these options that fit their learning goals within the concentration.


You may apply to the concentration in your sophomore or junior year.

Next application deadline is October 13, 2023




Collaborative Innovation Concentration

146 Elm Street
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Co-Director: Megan Lyster
Administrative Assistant: Veeka Stanton

Supporting Offices

The Collaborative Innovation Concentration is collectively supported by the following offices.