Opening Students’ Minds Through Interdisciplinary “Making”

Resource Description:

STEPHEN RUSH, (Professor of Music, Dance/Music Technology, School of Music, Theatre & Dance), won the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize in 2017 for his project, Opening Students’ Minds Through Interdisciplinary “Making”.

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Resource Title:
Opening Students’ Minds Through Interdisciplinary “Making”
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Academic Area:
Arts and Humanities
Dance/Music Technology
Faculty Name:
Stephen Rush
Amy Chavasse, Yojairo Lomeli,
Andrew Thompson, and Herbert Winful
MARY LOU DORF (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,College of Engineering)

“Creative Process” (UARTS 250) is a course that promotes interdisciplinary learning approaches through the lens of four North Campus “making” academic units: Art & Design; Engineering; Architecture & Urban Planning; and Music, Theatre & Dance. Each term a team of five faculty from four different U-M schools works closely with students to illustrate how thinking and working creatively brings greater productivity, accomplishment, meaning, and richness to multiple aspects of life: academic, professional, and personal.

Rotating through two-week sessions with different faculty members “place[s] students comfortably in zones of discomfort,” where low-stakes, introductory assignments encourage risk, failure, and iteration—all backbone principles for the course. For the final project students are given balloons with a word tucked inside. These words are simple, randomly generated, and as diverse as “butter,” “diagonal,” or “salmon.” The students are encouraged to explore their words etymologically, physically (through dance), spiritually and socially, building on the themes and skills explored during the rotations. Their projects are displayed and discussed at a gallery showing at the end of the semester to illustrate the diversity of work generated.

Student Comments

“The best part about ‘Creative Process’ is that students were at all skill levels, and despite this, everyone could contribute constructively. My background in math and science helped me contribute to class discussions. The skills we learned, especially through powerful teamwork and camaraderie, could be applied to any field.”

“I took UARTS 250 two years ago and am still working with what it taught me…..”

“UARTS 250 did not magically turn me into a creative genius, but it certainly primed me to work towards creative solutions.”

“This course somehow prepared me for a future I couldn’t predict, and I am certain it will continue to prepare me for the rest of my life.”

“I didn’t expect to be so ‘touched/moved’ in taking this course … I am surprised by the many related connections that I am making between the projects and lessons for living.”

“In the first week, I could not understand the relationship between engineering and art. However, I now can relate those concepts and how one is needed to create the other.”

Above photo:
Stephen Rush (Professor of Music, Dance/Music Technology, School of Music, Theatre & Dance)