Laurie Baefsky, DMA
As executive director of ArtsEngine and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) since August 2014, Laurie Baefsky works locally and nationally to support and strengthen the arts and transdisciplinary arts endeavors in higher education. Based at the University of Michigan, she works to define emerging fields that intersect with arts and design, demonstrating the value of the arts throughout the research university, and facilitating innovative arts partnerships.
She previously served as grants manager for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, and from 2007-11 Dr. Baefsky established the USU ArtsBridge program at Utah State University, an arts-based interdisciplinary engaged learning initiative. A skilled grant writer herself, she has raised over $5.3 million in arts funding, and is currently PI on the Mellon Foundation-supported a2ru research initiative, SPARC – Supporting Practice in the Arts, Research, and Curricula.
Laurie began her career as a classical flutist and music educator, with degrees in flute performance from Stony Brook University, University of Michigan, and California State University, Fullerton. She has appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra, Utah Symphony, New World Symphony, and as a tenured member of the Virginia Symphony. As a chamber artist, her performances have ranged from Symphony Space and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, NYC to northeastern Morocco and Umbria, Italy. Laurie previously taught music and interdisciplinary courses for eight summers at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Humanities and Visual & Performing Arts at University of Richmond, and served as applied music faculty at multiple colleges and universities throughout southeastern Virginia.
Debra Mexicotte, MA
Debra Mexicotte received her BFA and MA in Theatre from Case Western Reserve University and the University of Michigan, and worked in local and regional theatre as a designer and painter before starting her career in higher ed. She has spent her career at the University of Michigan working to partner with students and student organizations to help them achieve their highest developmental aspirations. Deb was named Student Organization Adviser of the Year in 1999. Most recently, she spent eight years as the Program Director for Arts at Michigan, a co-curricular arts engagement program at UM. She is also the current President of the Ann Arbor Board of Education and has served the community as a Trustee since 2003.
Maryrose Flanigan is the associate director of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), where she oversees a network of about 35 U.S. research universities to advance arts-based initiatives in higher education. She previously served as division coordinator for Literature and Arts Education at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2010-2016, where she coordinated the Art Works grant category, the creative writing and translation fellowships; Poetry Out Loud; and the NEA Big Read. With degrees in creative writing, poetry, and French from American University, John Carroll University, and a language certificate from Sorbonne University in Paris, France, she has also served as associate editor for Office of Communications and Public Affairs (OCPA) at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), in Washington, D.C.
Gabriel Harp is the Research Director for a2ru, where he leads the Mellon SPARC project and a2ru’s research agenda. The SPARC project makes use of hundreds of interviews with faculty and administrators from over 35 research universities—as well as supporting materials and documents—to identify and highlight patterns and practices for arts-driven research, collaborative know-how, curriculum, and organizational design in higher education. Prior to joining a2ru and returning to the University of Michigan, Gabriel lived in the San Francisco Bay Area leading strategic foresight, organization change design, large-scale social science research initiatives, arts research, and software design projects for the Institute for the Future, ecoAmerica, XPLANE, Microsoft, Intel, WattTime, GE, CoClimate, The World Health Organization, the California Community College System, and Nokia. Gabriel also spent four years teaching and leading experimental art, design, technology, and public policy labs in Bangalore for the Center for Study of Science Technology and Public Policy (CSTEP), the Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS), and the Srishti Center for Experimental Media Art (CEMA). Gabriel was originally trained in evolutionary ecology and behavior while studying the evolution of sex and parasitism in freshwater snails and floral evolution in flowering plants.
Edgar Cardenas, PhD
Mellon Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Edgar Cardenas received his PhD in Sustainability from Arizona State University. His dissertation, entitled Art-Science for Sustainability, focused on coupling sustainability science with the arts with the objective of bolstering more creative problem solving in sustainability. The culmination of this work resulted in both a written dissertation and a solo thesis exhibit. As a social scientist, Dr. Cardenas focuses on social creativity and small group dynamics, exploring which processes and mechanisms foster creative collaborations. As an interdisciplinary artist, he investigates the ecological, cultural, and technological subtleties of human/environment relationships. He has exhibited internationally at both art and science venues and has been published in art and science journals as well.
In addition to his research and art practice, Dr. Cardenas has also developed, organized, facilitated, and led several artists-scientists collaborative projects, as well as moderated panels on this topic. Dr. Cardenas also holds an MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of New Haven with a focus on organizational development and conflict management.
Amy Tackitt received her Bachelor of Music in cello performance from the University of Michigan where she studied with Anthony Elliott, Erling Bengtsson, and Richard Aaron. Before returning to Michigan to work for ArtsEngine and a2ru, she served seven years as Program Coordinator of the Community Music and Dance Academy and Curry Summer Music Camp, the two community outreach programs housed within the School of Music at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. Amy is currently the Administrator for the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association, an organization of over 300 member organizations from around the world. She has played in many summer festival and community orchestras throughout the country and served as chair of the orchestra committee for two years while playing in the cello section of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. Prior to serving at Northern Arizona University, she spent two years as Assistant Orchestra Librarian for the Houston Symphony in Houston Texas.