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The Art(s) of Teaching: UMS Mellon Faculty Institute on Arts Academic Integration

at the inaugural faculty institute
Photo: At the inaugural Faculty Institute.

How can a symphony inform a course in environmental science? What can a dance teach us about literature? How might we use a play to discuss history, psychology, or political science? In an innovative new program for faculty at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts, UMS is tackling those questions in order to create exciting new learning opportunities for U-M undergraduate students.

The UMS Mellon Faculty Institute on Arts Academic Integration is one of the signature programs of our UMS Mellon Initiative, a three-year pilot funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation to bring UMS’s performances and arts-integrative learning strategies into undergraduate classrooms across the curriculum at the University of Michigan. An inaugural cohort of fifteen faculty fellows is engaging in a two year process that will culminate in the 2015-2016 academic year with the creation of new or substantially revised courses in their home disciplines that incorporate UMS performances and/or performing arts learning strategies.

The members of our first class of UMS Mellon Faculty Fellows are:

  • Kelly Askew: Associate Professor, Anthropology and Afro-American and African Studies
  • Ruth Caston: Assistant Professor, Classical Studies
  • Jacqueline Courteau: Lecturer and Academic Adviser, Program in the Environment
  • Deirdre de la Cruz: Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures and History
  • Scott Ellsworth: Lecturer, Afro-American and African Studies
  • Jeffrey Evans: Associate Professor of Psychology and Faculty Counselor, Residential College, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the Medical School
  • Linda Gregerson: Professor, English Language and Literature
  • Colin Gunckel: Assistant Professor, American Culture and Screen Arts and Cultures
  • Petra Kuppers: Professor, English Languages and Literatures, Women’s Studies, Art and Theatre
  • Farina Mir: Associate Professor, History and Director, Center for South Asian Studies)
  • Adela Pinch: Professor, English and Women’s Studies
  • Colleen Seifert: Professor, Psychology
  • Carol Tell: Director, Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, and Lecturer, Sweetland Writing Center
  • Cody Walker: Lecturer, English Language and Literature

We launched the program in May with a two-day intensive of workshops and talks that I co-facilitated with Marjorie Horton, the Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education in the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts (LSA). The intensive was designed to create a strong sense of community among the Faculty Fellows and to provide them with strategies and specific examples from experienced arts educators to inspire their own course development process.

The event included:

  • A keynote and workshop on arts and civic dialogue with Michael Rohd, Assistant Professor of Theatre at Northwestern University and the Director of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice.
  • A roundtable discussion on arts-integrative teaching with University of Michigan faculty.
  • A workshop on incorporating live performance into the classroom across disciplines with Aaron Shackelford, the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • A workshop on incorporating movement into the classroom with Clare Croft, Assistant Professor of Dance at U-M.

Fellow Ruth Caston wrote of her experience at the intensive: “I went in rather naively expecting that I would learn about how to incorporate several performances from the UMS schedule into my syllabus. Instead you exposed us to some amazing arts instructors who shared ways to teach and interpret ‘big ideas’ through the lens of music and movement. I found it incredibly interesting and inspiring, and it has given me new ways to think about how I went to integrate the arts throughout the semester, rather than at a few set junctures.”

Fellow Jacqueline Courteau added: “I am inspired to think about how I can incorporate the performing arts in any number of ways, and I am really looking forward to working with you over the course of the coming two years. I am eager to continue interacting with such a distinguished, interesting, and thoughtful group of colleagues. . I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have been included in this group.”

Watch this video to get an inside look at the May intensive and hear more from our Faculty Fellows and guest speakers:

Throughout this academic year, UMS will be collaborating with a number of units on campus to craft a series of course-development seminars and workshops on different arts disciplines that support the Faculty Fellows as they ready their courses for the 2015-2016 year. Our fellows will also be getting an inside look at our season-planning process, so that they are able to take full advantage of our programming in music, theatre, and dance in their classrooms.

Interested in learning more? Starting in January, we will be accepting applications for the second cohort of UMS Mellon Faculty Fellows, for classes to be taught during the 2016-2017 academic year. Watch for application forms and detailed program information on