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In many national and international circles, the University of Arizona is known for its dance school, translation and interpretation program, English language center, creative writing faculty and also the Poetry Center and Center for Creative Photography.
But the UA has been earning attention on the global scene for its emphasis and expertise in the arts and humanities.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings in the area of the arts and humanities was released this week, with the UA tied for 49th place with the University of Virginia when compared with public and private institutions around the world. And overall, the UA ranked 98 among institutions around the world, 51st among those in North America and 46th for those in the U.S.
"We're preserving the old and creating the new," said Jory Hancock, the UA College of Fine Arts dean.
"Our equivalent of the UA's research mission is creative activity," Hancock said, noting that the arts and humanities complement the University's achievements in scientific and laboratory-based research. "Our responsibility is to do both."
The ranking system is based on 13 indicators, judging each institution based on the teaching and learning environment, the scope and reputation of research, citations in scholarly journals along with the institution's global perspective and reach, among other measures.
"It's really important that teaching, research and citations are all taken into consideration for the rankings," said Mary Wildner-Bassett, the UA College of Humanities dean.
"We make a huge contribution to the teaching that occurs at the University of Arizona. That teaching is another major source of funding and impact we are being recognized for," Wildner-Bassett said. "The others are just as important: research, scholarship, creative activity as one, and international involvement and impact as another."
The sculpture and installation pieces found throughout campus, calendars full of art exhibitions, the massive archival holdings that are accessible to the public at Special Collections and a full academic year of UApresents performances may stand as obvious examples of the University's commitment to the arts and humanities. And others exist.
UA students, faculty and staff are engaged in a broad range of notable activities locally, across the nation and abroad. Among them:
Several nationally ranked academic programs and interdisciplinary connections exist in the colleges of humanities and fine arts.
The Humanities Seminar Program, a non-credit educational program for adults, has been running for nearly three decades, serving more than 12,000 members of the community beyond campus.
- The UA's Poetry Center has, through grant funding, greatly expanded its Web-based video and audio database called voca, making it globally accessible. A beacon in and of itself, the center is one of only three of its kind in the U.S. and has, over the years, hosted the likes of writers and poets such as Ai, Adrienne Rich, James Tate, Michelle Tea and Steve Orlen, all who have read at the UA.
- Regarding the UA's global reach, the Center for English as a Second Language teaches more than 400 international students each semester in English, preparing them for their academic programs across the United States.
- Individual students and faculty, as well as ensembles, in dance, music and theatre arts perform around the world, throughout Europe, Asia, South America and elsewhere. The School of Dance alone has completed one dozen international tours in the last 15 years.
- The 2011 launch of the UA's Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry heralded a major administrative commitment to the arts and the humanities. In less than two years, the center has sponsored and co-facilitated events with internationally known scholars such as Gayatri Spivak and Noam Chomsky while also funding a range of UA research initiatives in the arts and humanities disciplines.
- The UA has been a major sponsor of the Tucson Festival of Books, held annually in March, since its 2010 launch. The College of Humanities shares sponsorship of the UA Reads program with the UA Bookstores, featuring events and programs leading up to the festival.
- The Arizona State Museum's staff members are working under a National Park Service grant to return human remains and sacred cultural items to American Indian tribes.
- Among the main missions of the School of International Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and are initiatives to train students in cultural and linguistic understanding and sensitivity.
- UA School of Theatre, Film & Television faculty members continue their work in the film industry. For example, Larry Estes, an assistant professor of practice, was involved with "TreeStory" and "One False Move." Also, Victoria Westover, who teaches film programming, produced "Apache 8," a documentary about female firefighters who are from the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
Also, the highly competitive and top-ranking School of Dance holds dozens of performances each year at its award-winning Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, also home to the UA Center for IDEAS, Integrated Dance Education and Service.
In fact, about 350,000 seats are filled through fine arts events each year through the collective efforts of UApresents and the UA's School of Dance, School of Theatre, Film & Television, Hancock said.
"We do so many shows, that's the equivalent audience of more than seven football games," Hancock said.
However, the benefits of the arts and humanities, and for some even the value of the presence of both, are not always understood and acknowledged. Then there are the interdisciplinary connections that are also of great benefit.
One example is music faculty collaborating with those in health-related fields working to understand the benefits of harp and art therapy; another is faculty working to understand how cross-border migrations and economies work.
"The arts and humanities give us that piece we have in common as humans across our cultures," Wildner-Bassett said.
Who would we be without our languages, cultures and artistic expressions, or even the very forums and spaces where we can share and explore what we do and do not have in common?
"I like to talk about transcultural understanding, which is beyond international and beyond borders. That is our focus," Wildner-Bassett said.
"Through transculturality, we can understand the value and contributions of all cultures, languages and people," she added. "Learning how our cultures shape our understanding of each other can develop into a real understanding of how we affect and can work with one another. Discovering this knowledge and transmitting it for others to learn – this is our mission, and these are our goals."