The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) was established in 2005 with funding provided by the President’s Interdisciplinary Initiative on Arts and Humanities. Designed as an integrative venue for interdisciplinary collaboration, exploration, and scholarship, the IAS was intended to bring researchers from across the University into dialogue with one another, and to serve as an incubator of new ideas. Ann Waltner was appointed as the Founding Director.
The IAS was envisioned as a place where faculty, students, and community members could take intellectual risks, challenge theoretical assumptions, integrate different forms of knowledge, and take on important questions aimed at reshaping fundamental understandings of the human condition. It was created to advance interdisciplinary and collaborative research and creative work among scholars, scientists, and artists at the University and in the broader community, and to provide opportunities for sharing that work with colleagues and the broader public. Initially launched in the College of Liberal Arts, the IAS was established as one of six University Interdisciplinary Centers in 2008. The IAS serves faculty from all college and system campuses at the University of Minnesota. Unlike the other University-wide centers, the IAS has no thematic focus; it therefore can incubate a wide range of projects which do not fit anywhere else in the University structure.
This openness has allowed flexibility in the areas of research and creative work that have developed at the IAS over the years. Faculty Fellows and Research and Creative Collaboratives have represented disciplines across the academy as well as work that ranges from preliminary stages to completion of manuscripts or works of art. The Institute has offered support to already established collaborative groups, such as Theorizing Early Modern Studies (TEMS); it has also worked to bring people together from diverse backgrounds to create entirely new areas of research, such as the technique of Bodystorming developed by the Moving Cell collaborative. Funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research supported faculty seminars and research projects as part of the University Symposia on Time, Body & Knowing, and Abundance & Scarcity. From 2008 to 2013, the Quadrant project, a partnership with the University of Minnesota Press funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, brought in residential fellows in four research areas: Design, Architecture, and Culture ; Environment, Culture, and Sustainability ; Global Cultures; and Health and Society. In 2012, the River Life Program became part of the IAS, offering expertise in place-based research and a focus on our specific location on the banks of one of the world’s great rivers.
A Haven for Scholarship in the Nolte Center
From 2005 to 2010, the IAS was located in the Nolte Center, a 1930s-era building that was built to house programs in continuing education. The residential fellows’ offices were originally dormitory rooms; many still had sinks. IAS public programs took place in the Nolte Library, a comfortable and cozy space; the large, sun-drenched Nolte lounge was a popular spot for studying, meeting, and socializing. Residential fellows and collaboratives thrived in what quickly became a vibrant intellectual community, what one faculty fellow termed a “haven for scholarship.” Under Ann Waltner’s energetic leadership, the IAS became recognized as the place at the University of Minnesota where exciting things happen, where there is support for innovative work, and where faculty and graduate students can learn from one another in cross-disciplinary conversation. In 2011, the IAS’s staff and fellows were moved off campus to University Park Plaza, but public programming continued in the Nolte Center.
IAS at the Center of Campus
In December 2013 the IAS moved into its permanent home in Northrop, the University’s iconic auditorium in the center of campus, at that time still undergoing renovation. Northrop was opened to the public in a Grand Reopening in April 2014. The IAS organized 45 public programs as part of the Grand Reopening, ranging from lectures and conferences to performances and a film series. The location in Northrop put the IAS in the center of campus and also allows for close collaboration with the other building resident units: Northrop Presents, University Honors Program, and the College of Design’s Innovation Lab. Having established the IAS in Northrop, Ann Waltner completed her tenure as Founding Director in August 2014, and the IAS welcomed its second Director, Jennifer Gunn.