Fostering Empathy within Interdisciplinary Teams

Sophia Deng
Nov 12, 2018 · 7 min read

Introduction

How Well Do You Know Your Classmates? is a data-driven narrative about the incoming freshmen at Cornell, published by The Cornell Daily Sun. As Editor-in-Chief and project director, my goal was to help people discover more about matriculating students by debunking or confirming freshmen stereotypes, and sharing insights on general demographics of each entering class.

Data Collection and Recruitment

Over the summer, we distributed our survey via social media channels and emailing lists to incoming freshmen. We received 1141 responses by the end of August, which was our cutoff date to ensure that freshmen took the survey before they started living on campus.

Constraints ⚠️

Racing against time 💣

Workflow: Initial Approach and Problems

We started off on a high note, following a workflow similar to the one we use to put the paper together, wherein the project lead communicates individually with a member of each subteam and serves as the center of knowledge and task delegation. Our team meetings served as in-person status reports (similar to sun editorial board meetings), where we would go over what we each had been working on, what we completed, and what there was still left to do.

Data Sci. passes on knowledge specific to their team to the project lead, lead passes this relevant information to Front End developers

Recalibration

For the sake of team cohesion and my own mental health as a leader, I knew that things had to change.

Resolving The Now

We had to make the meetings we could all attend count. Only going over progress and future tasks during sync-ups wasn’t enough to drive us forward, so team meetings had to be more than just status reports.

Before and After. After is a ⭐:)

Solutions For The Future

We successfully published the project and team morale was instantly boosted as soon as the reactions rolled in and we saw all of our hard work paying off. But our work wasn’t done yet.


Takeaways

Publishing the project was a particularly proud moment for me because it was an important first step towards revitalizing The Sun’s push towards digital journalism and attracting new talent. This project would signal our ability to break past barriers and motivate more people with relevant skills to join our organization.

Sophia Deng

Written by

Cornell 2019 | Future UX Design Intern at IBM | https://dengsophia.com