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Guna Nadarajan on Integration of Arts with Science at U-M

Engine for integration

Stamps Dean Guna Nadarajan is featured in a new Michigan Research article by Alex Piazza on the integration of the arts with sciences, engineering and medicine at the University of Michigan.

A designer worked with a pediatrician to develop a video game that helps young people with diabetes monitor their blood sugar.

A painter teamed up with an astrophysicist, musician and computer scientist to create a visualization that simulates the experience of flying through dark matter in our universe.

And a studio artist partnered with medical researchers to explore how creative projects can help support Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

These examples from the University of Michigan are part of an important trend in higher education: integration of the arts with sciences, engineering and medicine.

There is an increasing awareness among academic institutions that conventional structures of disciplines and departments, and the organization of teaching, learning and research around those structures, are outdated in relation to the complex problems all graduates are likely to face in a rapidly changing world,” said Gunalan Nadarajan, dean and professor at U‑M’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. Complex problems require complex skill sets that are not easily found or restricted to specific disciplines or knowledge domains.”

Nadarajan served on a 22-person committee, organized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, that examined the effect of integrating the humanities and arts into sciences, engineering and medicine in higher education.

The committee produced a report, released in May, that features promising evidence that some integrative approaches are associated with positive learning outcomes, such as improved written and oral communication skills, empathy and the ability to apply knowledge in real-world settings.

Beyond positive learning outcomes, integrating the arts with sciences, engineering and medicine also fosters new research that helps develop creative solutions to address the world’s most pressing challenges. For this reason, the School of Art and Design appointed Jane Prophet this month as its first associate dean for research, creative work and strategic initiatives.

Research in any specific discipline today needs to be constantly vigilant to the perspectives, tools and methods of other disciplines that are relevant to illuminating or approaching the complex problem at hand,” Nadarjan said.

Engine for Integration | Michigan Research