Stanford Arts Institute to pilot new interdisciplinary honors program


The Stanford Arts Institute will pilot a new interdisciplinary honors program in the arts during the 2013-14 academic year, an initiative intended to appeal to arts and non-arts majors alike.

Students admitted to the program will participate in small workshops throughout their senior year while working towards the completion of a capstone project that reflects both the student’s academic background and an arts perspective. The program’s two tracks – intended for arts and non-arts majors – will both confer an “Honors in the Arts” distinction upon completion.

“We believe this program is the first of its kind in the country,” said Matthew Tiews M.A. ’99 Ph.D. ’04, executive director of arts programs. “We expect to see exciting and innovative honors projects come out of it as students invent new connections and creative pathways.”

Stanford Arts Institute faculty director Stephen Hinton framed the pilot program as a logical outgrowth of the Stanford Arts Initiative, a University-wide effort to strengthen campus arts programs that concluded in 2011

“You can imagine somebody being interested in science of various kinds but [also] representing that science in an artistic way,” Hinton said.

Hinton and Tiews cited earlier interdisciplinary work in the arts by students as partially inspiring the pilot, and argued that the initiative will allow students to integrate arts into their academic careers while opening the door to arts-related career paths.

“It draws attention to the fact that Stanford isn’t just about arts engagement on an extracurricular level but is actually integrating the arts into a liberal arts education, which is the idea that underpins everything about a Stanford liberal arts education,” Hinton said.

The 12 students selected for the program will be split into two workshops of six students each, comprised of students from both tracks. The program, which will span three quarters, will award two units per quarter.

Brian Chhor ’13, who combined science and sculpture in an undergraduate capstone project through the biology department’s Senior Reflection program, applauded the new arts initiative as filling a void.

“The vast majority of us hadn’t had the opportunity to explore our artistic passions within the framework of our courses,” Chhor said. “We wanted to explore the more human side of science and technology and leverage that.”

Tiffany Dharma ’14, who participated in Stanford’s Arts Immersion Program in New York, expressed a similar interest in the program.

“I’m a computer science major, and I switched majors halfway through my Stanford career,” Dharma explained. “I haven’t really had the opportunity to explore as many arts classes as I like just because they’re usually 5 units.”

The program – which will feature a workshop lecturer, a faculty advisor, an advisory council and visiting artists throughout the year – will allow students to develop their projects through the small workshops, according to Stanford Arts Institute administrator Emily Saidel.

“I believe there is value in hearing from people who have very different bases of knowledge and very different methodological backgrounds in terms of reactions, critiques,” Saidel said. “I think there is value in the unexpected responses and insight you can get from people.”

“That diversity [in the Senior Reflection class] was very beneficial,” Chhor recalled. “It kept us on our toes and helped us get different perspectives on what should be done…The way a photographer sees my sculptures is very different from the way a musician would.”

Chhor echoed Hinton’s advocacy of the arts’ role within the model of a liberal arts education.

“In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about this split between the fuzzies and the techies. Stanford students are phenomenal in the sense that we bridge that gap everyday,” Chhor said. “I think these kinds of programs, which allow us to explore these different interests, highlight the beauty of these intersections that makes Stanford so amazing.”

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