Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Humanistic Commons

Humanistic Commons

Innovative Ideas in Interdisciplinary Graduate Education

The College of Liberal Arts’ Humanistic Commons – one of five winners of the Graduate School’s 2014 competition for innovative ideas for enhancing interdisciplinary graduate education – is a teaching and research initiative that aims to rethink graduate education in the humanities across time, culture, discipline and space.

The Humanistic Commons is not a new program or school, but rather a new method of connecting research and teaching both within the College of Liberal Arts and across the University as a whole. It’s an intellectual space that aims to spark conversations between students and faculty; among artists, critics, theorists and historians – a space to critique and contest conventional wisdom, knowledge and institutions in ways that will lead to collaborative innovation and problem solving.

Initiated this fall with undergraduate students, the Humanistic Commons is moving towards an alternative graduate education paradigm that aims to both integrate collaborative faculty research into existing programs and enhance interdisciplinary graduate education by building curriculum.

“The research of faculty will be used in courses that are not limited to their discipline and will attract a wider range of students, both at the undergrad and grad levels,” says Humanistic Commons member Ana Paula Ferreira, professor of Spanish and Portuguese studies and associate dean for faculty. "We hope to make their research more visible and available."

Central to the graduate education dimension of the Humanistic Commons is the development of three-year Graduate Research Groups that combine current faculty research with graduate education and mentorship, connecting faculty and students through a common project.

Graduate Research Groups will involve discussion of individual research projects, visits by scholars, conferences and other special projects. Though still taking classes within the department of his or her major, a student will also be able to work with experts in other disciplines. Students will benefit both academically and professionally, through additional research experience and publications in fields outside their degree.

The intention is for these groups to become a fundamental part of graduate education, creating courses and for-credit graduate research opportunities within CLA. In this model, faculty will be encouraged to share their expertise and interdisciplinary work beyond their own departments.

According to Humanistic Commons member Michal Kobialka, professor of Theatre Arts and Dance and the former associate dean of faculty when the committee was formalized in 2011, participation in Graduate Research Groups will enhance the student experience by facilitating a different kind of faculty/student relationship:

“[They] encourage a model of graduate education that complements one-to-one adviser-student mentorship with broader and less hierarchical communities of common research interests that include faculty and graduate students at every stage of their programs."

The Humanistic Commons committee will work with existing degree programs to integrate curricula and research groups into graduate education. Humanistic Commons members belong to a broad range of existing departments within the College of Liberal Arts, including language studies, history, cultural studies, the arts, psychology, political science and anthropology.

To learn more about the Humanistic Commons, visit http://cla.umn.edu/teachresearch/humanistic-commons/.

– Lyra Fontaine