Wesleyan University: Lessons Learned

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Process lessons

Scenes from the Feet to the Fire Common Moment on August 29, 2008 at Wesleyan University. Photos by Nick Lacy.

Project Administration and Partnership

  • Select a highly compelling topic of contemporary societal concern that appeals to a wide cross-section of people as a way to galvanize campus and community collaboration
  • Have at least a six-month planning period with a campus/community planning committee, including all stakeholders; encourage them to invest in the process by giving them leadership opportunities for various project elements; include students
  • Engage a high-level, fully-tenured faculty member as one of the lead partners, preferably as a co-PI
  • Secure the active support of senior level administrators, particularly those who govern curriculum (provost/deans) so that the project may effect lasting change on campus
  • Delineate roles and responsibilities for project partners during the planning phase
  • Identify community partners early and ensure that their institutional needs are met by the project; empower them with real tasks so that they share responsibility for the project’s success
  • Implement the project over at least two academic years
  • Meet regularly and provide forums for discussion and volunteerism throughout the course of the project; be inclusive in decision making and planning
  • Invite the lead artist(s) to consider carefully their ability to partner on a project for the long term and be flexible and prepared should those artists need to disengage before the project is over
  • Brand and market the project as a package that ties together otherwise disparate courses, modules, performances, lectures, exhibits, etc.
    Draft the evaluation plan alongside the implementation plan; assign responsibility for evaluation elements in advance; consider hiring a dedicated project evaluator
  • Engage a videographer who is also a skilled interviewer and document all aspects of the project

Pedagogical models

  • For successful co-teaching, ensure that research interests of partners intersect, that disciplines are presented to students non-hierarchically, and that adequate planning is invested in co-creation of lesson plans
  • Advertise to students the incorporation of another discipline into any course in advance
  • Try class modules as a strategy to introduce faculty and students to interdisciplinary engagement
  • Advocate for the university to fund course relief in order to enable faculty members to experiment with co-teaching over the course of a semester

Artist integration

  • Engage resident faculty artists as well as visiting artists
  • Position artists as senior researchers and co-equal scholars to non-arts faculty
  • Include visiting artists in curricular planning and programming to emphasize the importance of the arts in a liberal arts university and to illustrate artistic opportunities in the university setting
  • Emphasize the rigor of creative work; create a frame of reference that exposes students to the role of creativity in all disciplines
  • Seek the synthesis of arts and non-arts disciplines, where one is not in service to the other, but rather both are acting in dialogue to deepen understanding

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