The Arts Engagement Project: Student Impacts of Collegiate Arts Experiences

Mar 20, 2020 2:00-3:30pm EDT

While there has been a great deal of research looking at the impacts of K-12 arts education, little research has focused on the co-curricular impacts of arts engagement in the college years. The Arts Engagement Project takes a step towards filling this gap and compiling critical data on arts engagement at the collegiate level by rigorously and comprehensively collecting and analyzing more than 4000 individual student responses from a multi-modal longitudinal study conducted at the University of Michigan. During this webinar, the hosts—a2ru Research Director Gabriel Harp, ArtsEngine Managing Director Deb Mexicotte, and a2ru Research Program Manager Veronica Stanich—will report on the findings of the Arts Engagement Project; a number of interesting and innovative statistical methods used in the analyses; and how these findings may be used more broadly to better understand the far reaching impacts of college arts engagement for student success in college and beyond, and to bolster the arguments for the arts and arts integration efforts in higher education. Participants will leave this webinar with a better understanding of the important role that co-curricular arts engagement plays in student development, and will be able to articulate with confidence the specific learning and developmental outcomes associated with college arts engagement (i.e., innovation, creativity, empathy, critical thinking, cultural competencies, and collaboration).

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Deb 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 joining the University of Michigan. She has spent her career working initially with students and student organizations engaged with the arts to help them achieve their highest developmental aspirations, and more recently with faculty and administrators to integrate the arts and design with science and engineering across the curricular and co-curricular spheres. Deb was named Student Organization Adviser of the Year in 1999 and has led research efforts on the impact of the arts on students at U-M. Prior to the last four years at ArtsEngine, she spent eight years as the Program Director for Arts at Michigan, a co-curricular arts engagement program. Her experience in the community includes 13 years as a Trustee on the Ann Arbor Board of Education, Chairing the Arts Alliance of Washtenaw County, and currently serving on the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission.


Gabriel Harp is the Research Director for a2ru, where he led the Mellon SPARC (Supporting Practice in the Arts, Research, and Curricula) project and the rest of a2ru’s research agenda. The SPARC project makes use of hundreds of interviews with faculty and academic leadership 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 the University of Michigan, Gabriel led strategic foresight, organization change design, large-scale social science-driven 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. From 2007 -2011 Gabriel helped launch lab and research programs fusing experimental art, design, technology, and public policy in Bangalore for the Center for Study of Science Technology and Public Policy, the Center for Knowledge Societies, and the Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology. Gabriel still draws on his formative training in evolutionary ecology and genetics (Indiana University) and the arts and design (University of Michigan) to guide his current research practice areas.


Veronica Dittman Stanich holds a PhD in Dance Studies from the Ohio State University. Her interview- and observation-based research investigating audience responses to postmodern dance has been published in Dance Chronicle and Dance Research, and presented to the Congress on Research in Dance. Additional research into arts-integrated teaching at the University of Michigan has resulted in whitepapers and case-studies circulated across the university. Currently, she is working with a2ru’s Research Director to analyze and synthesize interview data on arts integration impacts; issues around tenure and promotion for those engaged in arts, design, and interdisciplinary practices; and collaboration. She continues to teach undergraduate courses in writing about performance and in dance.