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Town hall will focus on integration of arts, humanities and STEMM

By Sydney Hawkins

Hayley Tibbenham as Alice in Inhuman. Photo by director of photography Joshua Knoller.

The Alliance for Arts in research universities was founded at the University of Michigan in 2011. Photo by Diego Valdez.

ANN ARBOR—The Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, in partnership with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will host a town hall meeting at the University of Michigan next week to discuss unique opportunities for arts integration on campus.

U-M’s town hall, which will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 28, at the Michigan League, is part of a series of similar gatherings that a2ru and NASEM have hosted on campuses across the country in recent months. It is free to the public. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP online.

The event comes one year after NASEM released a detailed, evidence-based report to describe the impact of integrative approaches to teaching and learning in higher education on students’ academic performance and career readiness.

Two members from the U-M community, Guna Nadarajan, dean of the U-M Stamps School of Art & Design, and Laurie Baefsky, former executive director of a2ru and U-M’s ArtsEngine, participated in the 22-person committee tasked with compiling its findings for the report.

Released in May 2018, the report represents the culmination of a two-year study conducted by a committee of representatives across the disciplinary spectrum—scientists, engineers, health professionals, humanists, artists and industry leaders. It strongly supports the integration of the arts and humanities with STEMM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine).

“This meeting is special because a2ru was founded here—and I believe that Michigan has really been a leader in this important conversation,” said Maryrose Flanigan, executive director of a2ru. “We can now say that interdisciplinary integration leads to positive student outcomes, including improved written and oral communication skills, ethical decision-making and critical thinking. These town hall meetings are focusing on the ‘What next?’ question.”

According to Flanigan, the town hall meeting will engage faculty members and leaders from across campus in panel discussions about how to implement strategies that facilitate the creation, evaluation and sustainability of courses and programs that intentionally integrate and connect the arts with other disciplines.

“The goal of this meeting is to position the integration of the arts as something that is more central to U-M’s mission,” Flanigan said. “Students and faculty should know that they have the opportunity to collaborate—in teaching, research and practice. While U-M already does great work in this area, we want to figure out how we can do a better job of facilitating that work.”

At the town hall, Tom Rudin, director of NASEM’s Board on Higher Education and Workforce, will give an overview of the 2018 report, “The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same Tree.”  

According to Rudin, the report has been among the top five most downloaded NASEM reports over the last year.

“We were amazed at the response and the amount of discussion this report has generated,” he said. “It has struck a chord nationally on the need for better integration of the arts, humanities and STEMM.”

U-M Town Hall Meeting Schedule:

9 a.m. Opening Remarks/Report Overview

  • Opening remarks by Rebecca Cunningham, U-M associate vice president for research, health sciences
  • Report overview by Tom Rudin, director, Board on Higher Education and Workforce, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

10 a.m. Panel: Addressing Academic Silos—Revisiting Modes of Knowledge

  • Earl Lewis (moderator), director and professor, Center for Social Solutions
  • Rebecca Cunningham, associate vice president for research, health sciences
  • Ron Eglash, professor, Stamps School of Art & Design, School of Information
  • David Gier, dean, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • Aileen Huang-Saad, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and engineering education

11 a.m. Panel: Arts Integration and the University Community

  • Marvin Parnes (moderator), interim executive director, Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru)
  • Christina Olsen, director, U-M Museum of Art
  • Jane Prophet, associate dean for research, creative work, and strategic initiatives, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design
  • Tom Rudin, director, Board on Higher Education and Workforce, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
  • Matthew VanBesien, president, University Musical Society