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By Karen Nikos-Rose on June 21, 2019

Partnership Is With the UC Davis Humanities Institute, University Honors and First-Year Seminars Programs

The University of California, Davis, has received $600,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to offer courses that merge arts, humanities and science in undergraduate seminars co-taught by science, humanities and arts faculty, with the work of visiting performing artists integrated into the curriculum.

The program is called SHAPE, named for Science, Humanities and Arts: Process and Engagement. “SHAPE is meant to jointly address two complementary sets of concerns in today’s society — the marginalization of the performing arts and a lack of understanding of and even hostility toward science,” said Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis. “SHAPE will address these imbalances, through a program to broaden students’ perspectives on the value of the arts, humanities and sciences, regardless of major or disciplinary focus,” added Roth, who is leading the grant. “We are extremely grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for recognizing the importance of these issues and supporting our proposed approach.”

Implemented in partnership with the Davis Humanities Institute, and the University Honors and First-Year Seminars programs, 10 new undergraduate seminars will occur, each co-taught by a science faculty member and a humanities or arts faculty member. Working with the Mondavi Center, each course will incorporate work by and interaction with a specially selected artist or ensemble. A steering committee, appointed by UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May, will solicit faculty proposals in fall 2019 with classes being taught during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years.

Roth said the program is aimed at bridging the gap that often occurs in undergraduate education in which non-STEM students may arrive without an understanding of the scientific method or awareness of the landmark scientific discoveries that shape the world, while the arts and humanities are often marginalized as lacking practical value.

In the faculty proposals, preference will be given to courses that address subjects of major social significance, and that

  • are taught by co-teaching teams that pair an arts or humanities faculty member with one from the sciences;
  • address subject matter from a multidisciplinary perspective;
  • are designed to incorporate artists’ work as a meaningful part of the curriculum; and
  • contribute to the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion based on teaching, service, research and perspective.

“I’m thrilled that the University Honors and First-Year Seminars programs will play a central role in developing these unique and powerful for-credit learning experiences for students,” said J. David Furlow, associate dean of Undergraduate Education who directs both programs. “The opportunity to collaborate directly with a performing artist in these courses is truly an unprecedented concept.”

Jaimey Fisher, director of the UC Davis Humanities Institute, said UC Davis is the perfect place for the program. “SHAPE’s transdisciplinary dialogues will educate our students for a rapidly changing, increasingly integrated world, in which creativity, communication, and intercultural capacities are increasingly in demand.”