Our Story

Our History

a2ru is a partnership of colleges and universities committed to transforming higher education to ensure the greatest possible institutional support for arts-integrative research, curricula, programs and creative practice between the arts, sciences, and other disciplines. It is committed to supporting the growing body of high-quality scholarly and creative production most attainable when disciplines are free to experiment within and across their boundaries.

Responding to the growing number of arts-integrative collaborations and programs that exist across the landscape of higher education in the U.S., in May 2011 The University of Michigan’s ArtsEngine—a body that drives arts-integrative collaborations among the arts, architecture, and engineering units—convened deans and other academic leaders from top research universities across the country to identify and begin addressing institutional barriers to arts-integrative efforts. From this meeting, the ArtsEngine National Network was formed. As the ArtsEngine National Network deepened, it became clear that the numerous research, curricular, and other extant initiatives were driving a much larger movement—a “creative turn”—in U.S. higher education. In an effort to research, identify, fund, and solidify this movement, this group of leaders realized that a more robust response was required. As a result, a2ru was officially founded in December 2012. In 2021, a2ru expanded its focus and its membership model from large research universities to include all higher education institutions, including art and design schools, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. It also opened membership to individual artists and scholars. 

With unparalleled scholarly range and depth, the contemporary higher education sector has the distinct capacity to equip faculty and students to confront challenges with expertise and creative confidence. Institutions that support exploration through mutually beneficial interdisciplinary approaches spur creative resolutions and meaningful innovations. a2ru enables colleges and universities to make more informed decisions and mitigate risks while engaging in innovative arts-integrative scholarship, teaching, and creative practice. a2ru identifies issues and trends in arts-integrative research, curricula, and creative practice and addresses institutional hurdles to implementation. a2ru attends to the critical mass of arts-integrative efforts that have already emerged and addresses the next generation of challenges. Informed by our partner institutions’ collective inquiry and pursuits, a2ru conducts research and calls for specific changes to traditional institutional frameworks.

Our Goals

a2ru has laid out four strategic goals as part of a long-term organizational planning process.

1. Strengthen the Network
We will create and promote programs, practices, resources, and advocacy that encourage arts-integrative practices by addressing the current and emerging needs of partner institutions–their faculty, students, and leaders–and of the network as a whole.

2. Impact Students and Faculty
We will support and disseminate the development of the arts and arts-integrative curricula, research, programs, collaborations, and initiatives to meaningfully impact students and faculty at research universities.

3. Gather, Disseminate, and Advance Arts-Integrative Research
We will catalyze and disseminate a2ru-directed research, surfacing the impact of, and best practices for, arts integration across research, teaching, learning, and community-engaged learning in higher education. We will act as investigators, aggregators, and archivists, for arts and arts-integrative research projects. We will also collect data for, about, and through a2ru’s partners and associations, such as research universities, governmental entities, emerging and established industries, and other nonacademic, nonprofit organizations, such as libraries, museums, and presenting organizations.

4. Consolidate and Strengthen the Organization
We will consolidate and strengthen the organization by delivering and communicating exceptional partner value, implementing visionary strategic and business planning, broadening member participation, and providing outstanding staff and resource management, as well as inspiring employee engagement and agency.