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Dunnagan Reflects on Her Impact and Passion for Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions

Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions graphic created by Lead Multimedia Designer Rich Gurnsey.
Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions graphic created by Lead Multimedia Designer Rich Gurnsey.

In spring 2020, with nearly 5,000 students enrolled to come to NC State in the fall, a new concept for a fully online student experience came into being. A free two-credit-hour course for all incoming students that would be fully online and asynchronous, so that students could participate in the course anytime, anyplace, anywhere! 

A partnership was formed with administrators, faculty and DELTA staff to create this initial course just five weeks before the first day of class! Designed for the largest enrollment for a single course that NC State had ever offered! And it would be free! 

Senior Instructional Designer Cathi Dunnagan
Senior Instructional Designer Cathi Dunnagan

Our team began with a set of goals. We wanted to give incoming students the experience of being part of the NC State Wolfpack community. We wanted to share the expertise of our many faculty representing multiple disciplines. We wanted students to understand the importance of interdisciplinary perspectives. We wanted to give students experience with the learning technologies that they would use when they started classes full-time in the fall. And we wanted them to know that we care deeply about them and their learning experience. 

That first course was all about pandemics, a very wicked problem in 2020 — which gave us the name for this new online learning experience, “Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions.”

Senior Instructional Designer Cathi Dunnagan shared, “It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve as instructional designer and content facilitator for Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions. Working with Lead Instructional Media Designer Todd Buker on creating the content for these courses has been an incredible experience. We have recorded videos and podcasts and livestreams to give students exposure to many different faculty and experts associated with NC State University! This content serves as the textbook for each Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions course. And these are not lectures, these are conversations with students. In addition to their talks, faculty shared supplemental materials to give students an opportunity to explore more deeply any subject that catches their attention.”

Our second Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions course was all about global change and our third focuses on the future of food. Each of these wicked problems has made the headlines in newspapers and social media around the world. We are bringing these issues, their challenges, and the research into possible solutions to all of our incoming first-year and transfer students. 

Dunnagan stated, “We are also sharing the content of these courses with the world, working with NC State University Libraries to share and to archive this amazing content! There’s nothing quite like it. Each year, we include as many colleges at NC State as possible as we cover new content. And the students explore disciplines that may be new to them and learn how to solve wicked problems by applying critical and creative thinking. Learning that it takes many experts, many points of view, and many lenses to describe each wicked problem and to search for solutions, together. That in essence is Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions.”

Cathi Dunnagan announced her retirement in late May after more than 25 years of service to the State of North Carolina and 14 of those years were at NC State.