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New Partnership Will Integrate the Arts and Scientific Research at Rutgers-New Brunswick

Jason Geary, dean of Rutgers University-New Brunswick's Mason Gross School of the Arts
Jason Geary, dean of Rutgers University-New Brunswick's Mason Gross School of the Arts

The university flagship joins the a2ru, which fosters innovative cross-disciplinary partnerships

Rutgers University-New Brunswick has joined the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), which encourages leading research universities to integrate the arts into the pursuit of knowledge in other disciplines.

For Rutgers’ flagship, a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, the partnership with a2ru will “offer Rutgers a national platform from which to promote our existing interdisciplinary collaboration between the sciences and arts, while creating new opportunities for our faculty and students,” according to Jason Geary, dean of the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Geary recently discussed the partnership and how it will offer Rutgers a national platform to promote collaborations between the arts and sciences that are already taking place, while fostering new opportunities.

What is arts-integrated research, and how do you envision it being done at Rutgers?

Arts-integrated research combines the arts with other academic disciplines in ways that produce new knowledge, reveal new disciplinary insights, or confront some broader social issue. Such work often involves applied research meant to harness some distinctive aspect of the arts to address a social or health-related challenge. I envision this work happening at Rutgers by bringing faculty together from across disciplines to share research priorities and by drawing upon our unique strengths, including a commitment to social justice, a diverse student body and institutional assets poised to help jumpstart such work. I envision it taking the form not only of cutting-edge interdisciplinary research projects, but of additions to the curriculum through team-taught courses and innovative learning shaped by fundamental notions of creativity as well as the emotional power and immediacy of the arts. Such work could potentially lead to cluster hires that help bridge the divide between disciplines, and could help make Rutgers a global leader in this space.   

What unique resources will Rutgers bring to this partnership?

Mason Gross School of the Arts is an obvious asset here. Combining the visual and performing arts under a single administrative structure not only mitigates against logistical challenges that arise when the arts exist in multiple units, but it compels us to think as a school about the ways in which we hope to see the arts integrated across campus. Within Mason Gross, the Dance & Parkinson's Program is a collaboration involving faculty in dance, psychiatry, and psychology that explores the role of dance in helping individuals with Parkinson’s disease improve mobility. We are expanding this work into a soon-to-be-established Integrated Dance Collaboratory, a hub of interdisciplinary research exploring dance’s unique rehabilitative potential for individuals with a wide range of physical and mental health conditions such as autism, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, chronic pain and fibromyalgia, mental illness and cognitive decline. The Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice is another tremendous asset because of the opportunities it offers to consider the role of the arts in highlighting, amplifying, and engaging directly with pressing issues of structural racism and inequality, and because pursuing arts-integrated research within this framework allows Rutgers to leverage its strengths in the arts and humanities. Other unique assets include Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health.

What opportunities might this create for Rutgers students, in the arts and sciences?

Our a2ru partnership will give undergraduate and graduate students the ability to participate in the annual Emerging Creatives Student Summit, which brings students together across disciplines to develop collaborative projects. Students who attend these summits are invited to apply for grants for interdisciplinary projects that address social, community, societal or real-world problems. Insofar as a2ru helps jumpstart arts-integration research across campuses, students will have the opportunity to work alongside faculty on interdisciplinary research projects involving the arts and to pursue their own collaborative projects. Students in the arts will gain an appreciation of the potential impact and applicability or their skills across a range of disciplines and as a vehicle for helping solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Students in STEM fields will gain insight into how the creative, emotional and fundamentally human character of the arts can shape their own fields and lead to different kinds of research questions and outcomes. All students who participate in these efforts will learn valuable collaborative skills that will serve them well as they pursue their careers.

What opportunities might it create for groundbreaking research?

Joining a2ru will spur discussion about arts-integrated research with faculty across Rutgers, which in turn has the potential to uncover new research horizons by bringing the arts into conversation with disciplines that typically are farther afield. Rutgers will also take part in a larger institutional dialogue with partners across the a2ru network that will illuminate best practices as well as ongoing arts-integration work at other research universities, stimulating new research directions here on campus. The hope is that, by tapping into the power and accessibility of the arts, we will be inspired not only to ask different kinds of research questions but to come up with creative and innovative ways of finding answers to those questions that combine the insights and methodologies of multiple disciplines.