Working Group Reports
This Michigan Meeting was designed to be the beginning of a cohesive, long-term initiative to better incorporate art-making and the arts into the U.S. research university. To advance that project, on Thursday afternoon, May 5, every registrant participated in a two-hour working group on one of seven topics. Each working group was led by a trained facilitator and produced a draft document comprised of a vision statement; short-, mid-, and long-range goals; and immediate action steps. These documents were compiled on Thursday night and presented on Friday morning as a first draft of a multi‐faceted plan for moving the agenda forward.
You can view the rough draft of the compiled reports here: Working Group Report Draft (PDF)
Immediate action steps recommended by the working groups are summarized here.
To fertilize working groups’ deliberations, members of the Michigan Meeting’s "Longevity" planning group generated draft vision and background statements on each topic.
You can view the original vision and background statements below or as a pdf.
- Research agenda
- Curricular models and impact
- Co-curricular programming
- Building the case for arts integration in post‐secondary education
- Funding models
- Advocacy structures within and outside the university
- National network design and role
Each working group will be led by a trained facilitator and will produce a formal document comprised of a vision statement; short‐mid‐, and long‐range goals; and immediate action steps. These documents will be compiled on Thursday night and presented on Friday morning as a first draft of a multi‐faceted plan for moving the agenda forward.
To fertilize working groups' deliberations, members of the Michigan Meeting’s "Longevity" planning group have generated draft vision and background statements on each topic. These statements are intentionally provisional and potentially controversial; they are offered as stimulus, not as final product. We trust they will help you choose the working groups(s) you'd most like to join, and will get your juices flowing.
Longevity Planning Group members:
Theresa Reid, Executive Director, ArtsEngine, Chair
Crisca Bierwert, Associate Director, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
Mark Clague, Associate Professor, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
James Holloway, Associate Dean, College of Engineering
Sean Hoskins, Graduate Student, Dance
Dani Koel, Graduate Student, School of Education
Jane Larson, Programs Manager, ArtsEngine
Michael Mauskapf, Graduate Student, Musicology and Business
Debra Mexicotte, Director, Arts at Michigan
Marvin Parnes, Associate Vice President for Research, Executive Director of Research Administration
Brad Smith, Associate Dean, School of Art & Design
Monica Starkman, Professor Emerita, Department of Psychiatry
Betty Anne Younker, Associate Dean, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
A multidimensional body of top-quality research will examine the benefits of integrating art-making and the arts into post-secondary education. This research will be quantitative as well as qualitative; will originate in a range of disciplines, including but not limited to anthropology, education, developmental psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and music; and will be recognized, cumulative, and easy to find as a coherent body of work. This research will draw from and inform the growing body of research on undergraduate student learning and post‐graduate success.
Research on student learning at the college level is gathering national attention, and is beginning to have widespread impact on pedagogy. Still, the scope and impact of this research lags far behind that of research on learning in the K-12 years, and research on the impact of art‐making and the arts in post‐secondary education is almost non-existent.
A good deal of existing research suggests that intensive engagement with the arts in K-12 years helps build aptitudes and skills that are components of creativity, such as flexibility, comfort with ambiguity, self-direction, and analytic acuity. With universities and employers increasingly interested in developing students’ ability to think creatively, it is tempting to extrapolate from these studies to the university years. However, neurological and social development in the late teen years is quite different from that in grades K-12, and particularly from that in the early elementary years, when most of the K‐12 studies on arts education are conducted. Hence we need a body of well‐constructed research that is directly relevant to the developmental stage of people in their late teens and early 20s.
Such research could provide valuable service for university leaders, students, their parents, and the culture at large, which demands increasingly creative leaders in all sectors. Furthermore, this research could be inspiring to university faculty in ways that existing research on student learning is not. The reform of course designs and curricula can be a powerful force, but a burdensome one for faculty. Without convincing research, few faculty members will be moved to make difficult changes for imagined ends. With such research, faculty could be catalyzed by data‐driven programs and workshops to revise courses and curricula to integrate art‐making and the arts in ways that can help students develop their full cognitive, emotional, and creative capacity.
Curricular models and impact
As part of their core mission, universities will transmit to students, faculty, staff, and the general public a deep understanding of the centrality of artistic endeavor to human life by requiring art‐making courses for graduation, and providing systematic exposure to and academic credit for intensive engagement with the arts in all their forms.
Requirements for admission and graduation vary considerably from university to university. Some require arts courses for admission; others eliminate grades for high school arts courses when calculating GPA. All universities require some curricular exposure to the arts and humanities for graduation, but very few require curricular exposure to rigorous art‐making, being satisfied with exposure to the humanities.
Arts integration at the post‐secondary level does not solely mean making more arts courses available to non‐arts students. Although increasing access to for‐credit art‐making courses is an important goal at many (perhaps most) universities, such access is insufficient in at least two ways.
First, most undergraduate curricula do not have room for students to take a significantly increased number of arts courses. Many other important elective classes beckon students; even if high‐quality art‐making courses were readily available to all students, few programs of study offer enough electives to allow general studies students to experience art‐making as integral to their life at the university.
Second, the centrality of artistic endeavor to human life becomes evident in a different way when "the art in the science and the science in the art" are taught simultaneously. The conceptual split between arts and sciences is relatively recent, as Marjorie Garber and other scholars have repeatedly pointed out. During antiquity and in the early modern period, the interdependence of science and art was taken for granted.
Ideally, universities will offer high‐quality art‐making classes to all comers, as well as a critical mass of courses that integrate art‐making and other core subjects. Such courses might address the art and science of casting bells or creating other musical instruments, the chemistry of work in clay, the physics of music, the impact of aging eyes on the production and interpretation of creative visual work, and hundreds of other possibilities.
Several hurdles loom: many colleges and universities have weak to non‐existent fine arts and architecture faculties; in most, access to courses in the fine arts and to studio space and tools for original creative production is extremely limited for the general studies student. Few faculty artists, who are busy educating majors, have the time to devote to developing innovative transdisciplinary courses, and some (perhaps many) have no interest in doing so: intense within‐discipline competition and lack of understanding of the value of such collaborations dampen interest. Indeed, some faculty doubtless see cross‐disciplinary collaborations as costing more than they’re worth in terms of disciplinary credibility.
A good deal of work needs to be done to demonstrate that curricular integration materially improves students' abilities to succeed on a number of metrics and that the benefits are cost‐effective for students, faculty, and administrators. The need for such data points in turn to the need for a coherent research agenda, addressed by one of this Meeting's working groups.
Universities will regard providing co-curricular opportunities for all students to produce original creative work in any artistic discipline a high priority. Central organization and funding will ensure diversity and excellence of experience, high visibility of opportunities and results, ready access to appropriate facilities and mentoring, and, when appropriate and useful, integration with curricular work.
The availability of co-curricular engagement in creative work varies greatly from university to university. In most places, more attention is given to students' participation in arts events (such as performances and exhibits or installations, and artist residencies around such imports) than to students’ sustained engagement in original creative work. This more common form of participation in arts events is a crucial element of the co-curricular experience for students: in general, the more such experiences available to students, the better.
However, varied opportunities for original creative work are critical as well and much harder to provide, requiring specialized facilities, supervision, and mentorship. Few universities are prepared to commit the resources necessary to provide high-quality experience in co-curricular creative work to all students for the same reasons that curricular art-making suffers: it’s costly, there is not an established case for it, and no clear (or, at least, well‐documented) demand is evident from parents and students, the university’s primary consumers.
Demonstrating a high return on investment will doubtless be required to stimulate strong university backing for co‐curricular art-making experiences. This need signals the importance of the Michigan Meeting working groups on the research agenda and case-making.
Building the case for arts-integration in post-secondary education
University, political, and cultural leaders will understand that, as a mode of discovery, comprehension, and communication fundamental to the development of the human species, art-making must be fully integrated into universities. Such integration will be understood as necessary if the university is to fulfill the responsibilities of higher education to society: the development of citizens who command their full expressive, analytic, and creative capacities as they shape the future.
To tackle the curricular, co-curricular, structural, and budgetary implications of incorporating the arts, university leaders must be convinced of the project’s relevance to the mission of higher education. That case has not been made in a sufficiently sophisticated way.
An important impetus for the current surge of interest in incorporating the arts into the university is to enhance students’ creativity. The case for arts‐integration should include but go beyond enhancing creativity. Three pillars suggest themselves:
- An argument about the vital role of art‐making in human evolution: archaeological finds have made it abundantly clear that art‐making is central to the development of the species.
- An argument about the mission of higher education: the future of humanity brightens with each generation that emerges from our universities in command of their full endowment of human faculties.
- An appreciation of the nature of art-making as a powerful mode of discovery, structurally similar to but also different from the cognitive processes involved in engineering, math, and science, requiring students to exercise the full complement of human creative capacity — cognitive, emotional, imaginative, moral, and aesthetic.
Making this case strongly enough to garner significant funds will be a challenge for a number of reasons: disciplinary trends, cultural assumptions about the arts, the paucity of relevant research on student learning, the current fiscal state in higher ed, and ongoing debate about the purposes and value of a college education.
The trend within non-arts disciplines that mitigates against arts integration is increasing specialization — hardly a new phenomenon but an accelerating one. The more minute the area of inquiry, the less relevant the arts seem to many investigators. This sense of lack of fit is exacerbated by regrettable cultural stereotypes: the Romantic notion of the artist as a social isolate who is self-indulgently, and merely, expressive. The research, experimentation, rigorous analysis, and constant refinement and iteration that go into the creation of art are not in evidence in this persistent stereotype of the artist.
Brilliant engineers and scientists can be as blindered by this stereotype as anyone else, and in part because of this misprision are often at a loss to understand what the arts or an artist could possibly have to do with their work.
Very little research of any kind establishes the value of arts‐integration in higher education, and what does exist is almost impossible to find. Current fiscal crises in many colleges and universities, the lack of a stable income stream to supports the arts, and debate about the purposes of a college degree (meal ticket, or preparation for cultural, societal, and economic leadership?) shape the context within which a case for arts-integration in the research university must be made.
Demand for arts integration will be such that, to compete for the best faculty and students, universities will find that they must institute stable and equitable funding mechanisms to ensure thorough arts integration — curricular and co-curricular.
Current funding models for the research university typically disadvantage arts programs. Teaching art-making requires considerable capital outlay for space, equipment, instruments, and supplies, including increasingly elaborate technological tools; in addition, faculty costs are high because the teacher-student ratio must be low. Tuition does not easily cover these costs, and art‐making (or studying the arts) is rarely grant-funded and — especially in a research university — is hard to support fully through donor funds.
Questions for this working group abound: What are the costs associated with thoroughly incorporating the arts? Might there be cost savings, or a great deal to accomplish with structural fixes? How can university funding models be revised to put art-making and the arts on a more stable and equitable footing? What’s a good comparison case to be made? For instance, universities regularly commit funds to enhance student well‐being through sports facilities and recreational programs. On what evidence regarding benefits? Can such evidence be adduced for the value of integrating the arts? If it’s a zero-sum game, what is art‐making more important than? And so forth.
Advocacy structures within and outside the university
Within colleges and universities, a leader reporting directly to the president and/or provost will be tasked solely with establishing and maintaining a multifaceted (curricular, co-curricular, grounds, facilities, research, etc.) program to integrate art‐making and the arts throughout the university, and will have an adequate budget, dedicated staff, and enthusiastic faculty participation for implementation. Because this activity is so crucial to so many, university governing bodies will receive regular reports from the arts executive on the state of the arts within the university. People in such positions at universities across the country will be in regular contact through a formal national network, exchanging information, ideas, and strategies to maximize resources and impact both within the system of higher education and on state and federal legislation affecting higher education policy and funding.
Advocacy arrangements within universities to support the arts vary widely from institution to institution and often from year to year. No professional network provides specific support for such broad-based, interdisciplinary university arts leaders as do exist or galvanizes their energies to produce a national advocacy agenda. This state of affairs — especially in the context of dramatic, well-organized and well-funded efforts to promote STEM education from pre-K through 16 — reflects ambivalence about the proper role of art-making and the arts in the research university. This ambivalence is directly affected by current debate about the proper function of universities, a debate which is more pointed during economic downturns. Typically, poor economic circumstances intensify calls for universities to produce graduates who find (fill) jobs — preferably, in the last several decades, in STEM disciplines. The longer view is that the rapid pace of social and technological change and the constant economic pressures of globalization combine to create lasting demand for graduates who are prepared to create the next economy, not to react to this one. When the enduring systemic need for the next generation of rigorously creative graduates is widely recognized, and the role of art-making and the arts in producing such graduates is clear, robust advocacy structures will be developed.
National network design and role
A national network of university arts leaders will drive continuation of the work begun at this meeting, monitoring, soliciting, and promoting relevant research; developing and broadcasting the most powerful possible case; clarifying advocacy roles, assessment strategies, and funding models; maintaining a web of communications to feed and disseminate this ongoing work; and planning strategically for its own increasing strength, influence, and longevity.
No network such as we envision currently exists. Several entities might, however, serve as a home. Among these are national arts advocacy organizations, including Americans for the Arts, the Arts Education Partnership, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters, with its subdivision, Major University Presenters. Other prospects for possible partnership include higher‐ed organizations such as the Association of American Universities, American Council on Education, and Association of American Colleges and Universities. Possible relationships with all of these and other compatible organizations should be explored.
Currently the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) is host to the Creative Campus initiative, which aims to make performing arts central to campus life. The momentum, leadership, and clear commonality of interest between CCI and the new network under consideration might be developed to the benefit of both.
A clear difference between the APAP / CCI initiative and the Michigan Meeting initiative is APAP’s focus on performing arts. The Michigan initiative encompasses all the arts disciplines, architecture, and engineering. Other differences include Michigan’s focus on broad student engagement in original transdisciplinary creative work and on the transformations in curricular life and university structures that would make such broad engagement possible. It is not clear that this expanded mandate is of interest to APAP or would be well-served within APAP’s existing structure, or that of any of the other organizations noted above.
The job of this working group is to consider all relevant questions and possibilities for the formation of an effective national network to effect the integration of art-making and the arts into America’s research universities.