Trustees discuss importance of arts and humanities at Penn State

May 03, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As one of the thematic priorities in Penn State’s current strategic plan, “advancing the arts and humanities” is a key component of a Penn State education and holds a solid position within the research life of the University, according to Barbara Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, and Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts.  

Korner and Welch today (May 3) discussed the University’s progress in these areas with members of the Board of Trustees’ Governance and Long-Range Planning Committee. 

Penn State’ strategic plan highlights five thematic priorities that embody existing and emerging strengths and opportunities. During Penn State planning process, the arts and humanities were identified as an area that merited more investment and attention. The plan states: “Penn State will be a leader in the arts and humanities, utilizing them—along with the sciences and other disciplines—as agents of change in addressing complex global issues.” 

 Korner and Welch, co-chairs of the Advancing the Arts and Humanities Committee, explained their committee’s progress toward its three primary goals:  

  • Increase student engagement in the arts and humanities; 

  • Encourage research that involves artists and humanists engaging with others in the University; and  

  • Promote University Park and Commonwealth Campuses as cultural destinations. 

“The arts and humanities are central to teaching and learning, to student life, to research at Penn State in ways both obvious and less apparent, and to solutions to most of the problems that confront our world. Our work is focused on ensuring that all members of the Penn State community recognize, appreciate, and pursue engagement in the arts and humanities as part of their daily lives,” said Welch.

Efforts to meet the first goal include developing new or updated inter-domain general education courses that involve arts or humanities disciplines cross-listed with science or engineering disciplines, such as “Being in the Universe,” tackling the nature of the universe and the nature of time from a scientific and literary perspective. In addition, a new user-friendly University-wide events calendar is in development, under the leadership of Michael Kubit, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. The calendar will help provide a comprehensive overview of all University events, including those with an arts and/or humanities focus. 

On the research front, efforts across the University have engaged faculty in interdisciplinary initiatives. The College of the Liberal Arts’ Humanities Institute was launched this year with the aim of promoting research and reflection on the humanistic issues affecting all of us. The institute is sponsoring a “Truth Project” involving speakers, panels and research on what defines “truth.” The project questions how we know the truth of what commentators and scientists say today, as well as how we decide how past events are remembered. 

Another example of interdisciplinary research is the current and widely visited Palmer Museum of Art exhibition, “Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials,” curated in partnership with a College of the Liberal Arts faculty member. Other participants span the University, including the Sustainability Institute, the African Studies Program and the Earth System Science Center. Programming has featured lectures and gallery talks by exhibiting artists and Penn State scholars, as well as related films.  

Actions to achieve the third goal, promoting Penn State as a cultural destination, include the Campus Arts Initiative, the University Park Arts Gateway and a collaborative Palmer Museum exhibition and catalogue involving faculty from the College of the Liberal Arts.  

The Campus Arts Initiative will commission site-specific visual arts work for buildings and campuses across the Commonwealth. At University Park, the College of Arts and Architecture is collaborating with the Office of Physical Plant to develop plans for enhancing public identification of the Arts District, which is currently hidden from street-front access.  

These projects are in line with Penn State President Eric Barron’s initiative to develop new museums for art and science at the Arboretum

There are several other examples of initiatives that meet all three goals, including: 

  • The Arts and Design Research Incubator, which provides seed funding, technical support, and workspace to high-impact arts and design research projects led by College of Arts and Architecture faculty in collaboration with other faculty from across the University; and  

  • The Humanities Institute’s Public Humanities Initiative, in-depth and accessible conversations that address the nature and function of democracy and the relation between the human and the natural world.    

“We are delighted that Penn State’s strategic plan has featured advancing arts and humanities among its strategic goals, and pleased to report progress on these goals. We look forward to working with faculty, staff and students to continue the advancement of these crucial disciplines,” said Korner. 


Last Updated May 03, 2018