a2ru White Paper: Student Perspectives on Arts-Integrative Interdisciplinary Training


June 20, 2014

An a2ru white paper co-authored by Dr. Anthony Kolenic and Lauren Fretz Thompson was shared with a2ru partner universities this week. Perspectives on Arts-Integrative Interdisciplinary Training: Student Views and Experiences on a2ru University Campuses provides an aggregate view of student perspectives on the value of interdisciplinary training, student reactions to efforts and opportunities underway on their home campuses, needs currently unmet, and challenges students face and experience within that context.

Information for this white paper was collected through several different formats during and after the a2ru Emerging Creatives Student Conference held January 30 through February 1, 2014 at Stanford University. Recommendations based on findings were presented to a2ru partners on June 13, 2014.
Information on becoming an a2ru partner is available here.

Summary of Findings:

  • Students overwhelmingly linked arts-integrative interdisciplinarity and open-mindedness, identifying this type of training and their expectation of access to it as a generational shift.
  • They desire and expect these opportunities to be easily accessible and visible on campus. Many students lamented that their involvement in interdisciplinary endeavors had been “accidental” rather than purposefully built into their educational experience.
  • These students place a high value on collaboration, and want to add “layers of experience” based on their individual interests and disciplinary expertise onto a particular project or problem. In general, they are less interested in changing or destroying the boundaries of a particular discipline, but rather want to find ways to work more collaboratively, based on a foundation of mutual respect.
  • Campus culture was routinely discussed; students are suspicious of inauthenticity, and overwhelmingly strive for sincere and committed efforts from their institutions. They are surprisingly aware of the relationships between funding, space, and common practices regarding tenure and promotion.
  • They realize that they need disciplinary training and deep expertise, and that trying to learn “everything” can cause too little focus and be ineffective; however, the stringent curricular requirements of a particular major or school to which many students are subject was strongly identified as a challenge and limiting factor to their preferred level of interdisciplinary engagement. Much like faculty and administrators’ experiences, disciplinary vernaculars—the language and meanings endemic to particular fields—also create discord and miscommunications among students.
  • More than anything, interdisciplinary students identified a need for community among students, faculty, administrators and employers. Those who do not find it on campus look outside of the institution—through jobs or internships, for example—to gain interdisciplinary skills and make connections.

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