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In March 2015, Dr. Steven Tepper, Dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and Dr. Alexandre Frenette, a post-doctoral scholar in Herberger, graciously shared an hour of their time with the UI team as guests of a very successful and engaging Fellows’ Forum. The topics about what the new leadership at Herberger plans to bring through ASU were so captivating that our conversations with Dean Tepper and Dr. Frenette went overtime, and we realized as we concluded with final remarks that we still had several questions unanswered about them personally and as individuals! We hope that they would agree with our opinion that this perfect cause for a second meet-and-greet in the near future.
Here are some highlights from our conversation:
• A monolith worthy of awe: ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is the largest, comprensive design and arts school in the nation and is among the best. Herberger includes 5 schools and the ASU Art Museum, altogether offering 49 undergraduate programs and 52 graduate programs. We talked about emerging fields within the arts that are increasing in popularity by young people and how the traditional ways of measuring the cultural health and creative output of a society are obsolete.
• Is culture dead?: During my time here at ASU, I have noticed that everyone is quite concerned about culture and its importance in the workplace and in the community. The Herberger Institute provides a comfortable and fitting home for exploring how we communicate and build culture, especially in the broadest, most macro-level sense. Dean Tepper gave us many opportunities to rethink how we traditionally think of culture, its prominence and its purpose in society. For example, it was interesting to learn that popular belief describes a rapid death march for creativity and the arts. However, young people are in fact promoting culture and creativity in ways that do not perfectly match our traditional metrics for measuring the output and impact of arts. Further, high school students increasingly express an interest in pursuing a career in the arts, whether or not their broad interpretation of the arts is exactly the same as ours (most of the time, it’s not). This readjusted approach to evaluating the health of and interest in the arts is supported by many different figures. For example, enrollment in arts and design has increased greatly from the late 1990s, and our country graduates an army of artists every year.
• Arts as a social perspective: Did you know that artists are less likely than other workers to be a minority of race? Minority populations account for 4% of major film studio executives and minority females direct only 2% of television series. Did you know that most major museums are still run by Caucasians, are supported by them, and are, thus, tailored to suit them? At the same time, take these facts for a spin: 45% of Heberger Institute undergraduates are non-white. A quarter of these individuals are first-generation college students. The ASU Herberger Institute is on its way to become the first design and arts school to represent the country’s demographic diversity and all of its creative potential. At this point in our conversation, we were beaming with pride and happiness for the Herberger Institute team.
• Bearing witness to an unstoppable innovative force: Our team was greatly impressed with Dean Tepper’s vision and strategic approach towards its high-reaching goals. It was exciting and energizing to see that they had a plan and the talent to help push their ambitions in the right direction. Strategic topics included discussions about how they plan to build their research profile, how they hope to imbed more artists in grants for STEM and the social sciences, how they aim to increase their enrollment (particularly in digital culture, creative enterprise and film), how they intend to cultivate more global partnerships, and (my personal favorite topic of the discussion) how to increase online degrees in design and the arts.
• Excellent closing questions that we explored and pose to you:
It may now be easier to understand how our conversation with Dean Tepper and Dr. Frenette went overtime. We extend our sincerest thanks to our ambassadors from the Herberger Institute for their time and for engaging us in such an enlightening and impactful conversation; most certainly, we look forward to the opportunity to continue our brainstorming and inquisitive discussions in the future.