Research Overview

A2RU’s research clarifies and highlights how the arts—including the fine, applied, and performing arts and design—impact research and knowledge production and teaching and learning experiences in research universities for systematic public benefit.

Our work seeks to address three basic questions to help A2RU partners meet their knowledge, communications, and program implementation goals:

(1) What is arts integration?

In interviews with over 300 faculty and administrators from research universities, language presents one of the most striking obstacles to the interdisciplinary and interprofessional work of arts integration and collaborative practice. In response, our research seeks to clarify common sources of ambiguity and build shared understanding. The results provide accessible, reusable resources for communications around programs, research, and curricula.

Current and forthcoming releases from a2ru include:

Research Briefs: summaries to ground discussion and understanding
What is Research?
What is Arts Research?
What is Arts Integration?

Knowledge Maps: landscapes of domains and practices
Taxonomies of disciplines, subjects, and collaboration networks that ‘constitute the arts’
Lists of arts research projects and programs (by a2ru partner)
Lists of arts integration project and programs (by a2ru partner)

(2) Why does art integration matter?

Our goal is to help a2ru partners, educators, leadership, and the public create greater understanding of the diversity, richness, breadth, and depth of the role of the arts and design in higher education. a2ru’s work also helps identify and define new heuristics for studying and evaluating those same outcomes by orienting practitioners and researchers towards the problems, challenges, and the shape of knowledge that exists and how it can be made valuable for decision making, learning, and community development.

Current and forthcoming releases from a2ru (in association with ArtsEngine at the University of Michigan) include:

Impacts Ontologies
From a collection of ~300 interview responses, we have identified categories and sub-categories of impacts. These insights become the basis for a graphic impacts map, and a source of highlighted examples for case-making, communications, and further inquiry. In addition, a synergistic program of participatory workshops, literature synthesis, and data collection is building on this foundation.

Cognitive and Cultural Patterns in Self-Reported Student and Faculty Experiences
Building from the basic impacts ontology and utilizing additional interview response data from over ~4000 university undergraduates, a2ru is actively researching the rhetorical and psychographic patterns present in student descriptions of their participation, transformation, and engagement with the arts. a2ru is integrating these results with the base ontology to reveal new insights about the roles and impacts of the arts and interdisciplinary practices on student experience.

(3) How do you do arts integration?

Pulling from over 8000+ individual interview responses with university faculty, staff, and students, a2ru is cultivating collective know-how to articulate, refine, activate, and refresh techniques for better practices and arts integration.

Current and forthcoming releases, artifacts, and programs from a2ru include:

Insights and Frameworks for Arts Integration and Interdisciplinary Collaboration
Insights and advice to foster leadership, bridge differences, create positive environments, and build solid structures for arts integration and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Patterns & Practices
Concrete solutions and better practices for accomplishing the work of arts integration in interdisciplinary collaboration, teaching, and research.

Tools for Sensemaking, Activation, and Amplification
a2ru is founded on the maker traditions. We produce templates, tools, games, workshops, rubrics, maps, artifacts, agendas, programs, platforms, and experiences that transform information into insight and knowledge into action.

Leadership Roles and Values
Insights and advice on the role of leadership for interdisciplinary programs and the value of arts integration for research universities.

Leadership Workshops
Workshop programs for faculty and staff on topics ranging from tenure and promotion to collaboration and curricula—designed to connect knowledge, empower leadership, activate, enliven, and inspire.

Insights for Tenure and Promotion Policies and Practices
A range of actions to cultivate policy that embraces disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and creative work equally in two distinct—but simultaneous and intertwining—journeys. One is at the institutional level; driven by upper-level university administration, it entails the assessment, mapping, maintaining, and implementation of inclusive policy. The other, at the individual level, centers on faculty and their personal professional trajectories from hire to tenure and on to promotion.

A2RU’s research methodology draws from a variety of frameworks, literatures, tools, and traditions—from social science to data science and from strategic foresight to participatory design. To accomplish this work, A2RU’s research team works to articulate, clarify, and prioritize key research questions, collect and assemble evidence, apply dedicated and rigorous analytical tools and methods, synthesize insights from across nascent domains and practices, organize participatory experiences, and develop new frameworks for understanding and activating the insights and practices that emerge.

A2RU’s research programs are supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 40+ partners of Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ArtsEngine—a strategic collaboration of the College of Engineering, the Stamps School of the Arts and Design, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and the School of Music Theatre and Dance, and the School of Information at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.