The cluster approach to academics is new to the structure of Plymouth State University. However, this idea has been long in use in our very own Interdisciplinary Studies program. This is a one of a kind program here at Plymouth State that allows students to reach across campus for knowledge and learn what they are most interested in to best prepare them for the future. In each program created within the department there are many components and pieces to a simple, yet complex puzzle. This is much like an athletic team where there are many parts working together to create one cohesive team including the Athletic Event Staff, Coaches, Players, Athletic Trainers, and Fans. The most intriguing part of this comparison is that much as our academics and our sports teams here at PSU work well, they work well together and often enhance the knowledge of their counterparts. PSU is a collaborative university that aims to successfully help each student and staff member reach their goals and this is often accomplished by the sharing of information and the seamless line created between departments. Through these variety of collaboration experiences, Plymouth State is able to create one united team and is fortunate to have staff members that truly care on their team. In my interview, I was able to sit down with PSU Men’s Soccer Coach as well as PSU Professor and Athletic Event Manager, Rob Wright, to ask him about his experiences, accomplishments, and most importantly how collaboration can be a vital role in the success of an individual or team.
Rob Wright has served as the Men’s Soccer Coach for the past sixteen seasons here at Plymouth State. Before finding his way to Plymouth State, Wright earned an undergraduate degree in Sport Psychology and a graduate degree in Sport Development in the United Kingdom. Wright would later go on to earn another graduate degree in Athletic Administration from Plymouth State. Wright wears many hats as he is a part of the US Soccer Federation and currently works for the New Hampshire Soccer Association as a coach to teach others about the art of coaching to earn a license. Wright cited Play Soccer as having one of the most significant impacts on his career as he started off early in his career with Play Soccer and often traveled to teach soccer camps around the United States.
Wright stated that one of his biggest accomplishments is earning an “A Level” soccer coaching license which is a very difficult global license to obtain with strict guidelines. Wright is one of 7 people in the state of New Hampshire to have earned this level license and obtained this license before the age of 30 through the USSFA. With this level license Wright teaches other aspiring coaches who are looking to pursue their careers. Wright has had the opportunity to collaborate with one of the biggest soccer clubs in Sweden and spend four days recruiting, joining the team for meetings, and training as players prepared for professional contracts.
As an educator, here at Plymouth State, Wright has many experiences working with others across campus as well as develop his own thoughts on higher education. Unlike many higher educators, Wright stated that he does not consider himself a professor, but rather an expert in his subject area. When teaching coursework to students, Wright strongly believes that teaching students as an equal and having intuitive conversations amongst adults is one of the best ways to further someone’s education. In the classroom, Wright creates real world projects for students to get hands on experience as early as the second week of class; in addition to real world projects Wright believes having relevant material being taught in class that students can see as realistically being applied to their life is key to the success of students.
As I began to discuss with Wright the importance of collaboration and working in a collaborative environment we dived into the use of technology in higher education. When asked about what can be done to help students learn best, Wright stated “. . .evolving with technology in a positive way. There will always be a constant battle with phones in class, but using other forms of technology can help students expand their knowledge as well as begin to network in their fields”. Wright brings light to an important aspect of higher education as creating ePorts and using Twitter professionally can enhance one’s future career, but if students are on their phones during class therefore missing the important information about how to utilize information we have now come to a cross roads. Technology must be used as a supplement to education in a positive way to further one’s educational experience.
Having experience and working in both the athletic and academic, Wright stated many benefits of collaboration. Wright explained that one of biggest advantages is always learning something new or “having your finger on the pulse”. “You can obtain great insight from other faculty and staff through collaboration as everyone is obtaining the newest and best information in their respected fields”, said Wright. I asked Wright about what skills he feels he has obtained by working across disciplines and amongst the lengthy list was social skills, effective communication, the confidence to stand up for something new, and ability to critically think and translate that to public communication. Wright is one among hundreds of faculty members here at PSU, yet has collaborated with a variety of people and departments at PSU. Some of those collaborations include administration, admissions, UPD, public relations, graphic design (HUB 50th Anniversary), and business. One particular collaboration Wright commented on was with the English department. For this project, two students continually followed PSU Men’s Soccer and wrote reports about the team throughout the season as real life experience in sports journalism. Lastly, when asked the tough question of what are the challenges of collaboration and are there any experiences where the collaboration was not beneficial, Wright’s answers were simple. It was noted that one of the challenges can be not fully understanding the other side, but that is also a beauty of collaboration, learning to understand more than one perspective and enhance your own knowledge or views. Pertaining to the topic of collaborations that were not beneficial, Wright stated that there has never been an issue with any collaborations he has been involved in and has always benefited in some way from crossing over into other disciplines for insight.
Wright’s experiences here at PSU in regards to collaboration is the perfect example of how collaboration can benefit not only one department or two, but an entire campus. Through enhancing one’s own personal experiences, like earning a level “A” license, collaboration can become that more beneficial as professionals each strive to learn the most they can to become an expert in their field. Collaboration is all about creating a team of individuals that can diversify and critically think about one issue/event/study etc. Much like different members of PSU work together to create a masterpiece, Interdisciplinary students have the opportunity to create their own majors with multiple disciplines in effort to create the best possible experience for their future.