So, you’ve gotten interest in STEAM, and maybe you’re a STEM faculty member (like me) looking for collaborators in the arts. How does one go about it?
Well, there are several routes that you can try. This post will address collaborations within your institution.
1. Use Existing Professional Connections If you’ve been engaged in university-wide, or Arts & Sciences-wide committees or activities, you may know faculty members in departments that include the literary, visual, or performing arts. If you approach them, they may have an interest in collaboration. This route didn’t pan out for me – none of the people I already knew seemed to be intrigued by this type of work. They were each engaged in their own projects and didn’t have an interest in the sciences. STEM can be a tough sell with some artists. Also, I started with few contacts in the arts at my institution.
2. Connect Through Chairpersons Try to connect to a wider group through department chairpersons. I sent an email about a STEAM workshop to the chairs of departments that engage in the literary, visual, and performing arts. While I got great attendance from the STEM departments, plus a fabulous science librarian and an adjunct professor from the School of Education, I didn’t get a single person from those arts-related departments. It was never clear to me whether the announcement reached or went past the chairs. Maybe your experience has been different?
3. Go Higher Up the Administrative Ladder Deans, provosts and presidents have a bird’s-eye view of their charges. When I spoke to my provost, she directed me to a professor in the Theatre Department. She and I had a great chat and are discussing collaborative possibilities!
4. Take a Detour Keep in mind the possibility that the arts professors in your school may be better connected to arts institutions than they are to anyone you know. I found a great collaborator in my university’s Art Department through collaborators at the Peabody Essex Museum (www.pem.org). I wonder if I’d find more through the local theater company or a writers’ collective.