University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) seeks to ignite creative, innovative, and profound research and discovery in the sciences, humanities, and the arts. The Institute for Advanced Study is a site, a concept, and a community dedicated to public and intellectual exchanges across the fields of human endeavor.

The IAS core programs include public events, our Thursdays at Four series, semester and year long residential fellowships for faculty and graduate students, Quadrant, year-long research and creative collaboratives and two year symposia.

Public Events

The IAS serves many intersecting communities, as is best demonstrated in our public programming. At IAS public programs, University faculty learn about what their peers are doing, students discover the breadth of research and creative activity at the University, and community members are introduced to innovative ideas in a welcoming and unintimidating space. We offer scholarly presentations, performances, roundtable discussions, and conferences; presenters include University faculty and researchers as well as prominent scholars, artists, and practitioners from around the world. Our public programming (and its archive on our website) presents a public face to the research and creative activities of the university and creates a web of intersecting communities.

In 2011-12, the IAS sponsored 124 events. Of these, 26 were in the Thursdays at Four series, 23 part of the University Symposium, and 20 associated with Quadrant. (Many events were part of two or more of these series.)

Research and creative collaboratives organized 64 events, of which 38 were public presentations and 26 reading and discussion groups.

Ten presentations were free-standing events. IAS also cosponsored 41 events organized by other University units and community organizations, offering administrative, logistical, and financial support.

Thursdays at Four

In the Thursdays at Four series we feature an eclectic mix of scholars, artists, and practitioners from diverse disciplines who present in a variety of forms, including lecture, discussion, and performance. Fall 2011 included scholarly presentations by Glenn Davis Stone (Anthropology and Environmental Studies, Washington University) on GMO research, Catherine Prendergast (English and Rhetoric, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on teaching with e-books, and Keith Bresnahan (Design History and Theory, Ontario College of Art & Design) on the architecture of seduction. Audiences were also treated to a preview of playwright Leigh Fondakowski’s newest multi-media project on the Gulf Oil disaster, The Big Spill, and actively participated in the work of the Moving Cell collaborative, as David Odde (Biomedical Engineering) and Carl Flink (Theatre Arts and Dance) sent audience members to the dance floor to engage in several experiments in group movement. Spring 2012 saw several standing-room-only presentations, including an interview with Chinese choreographer Jin Xing prior to her performance in the Northrop Dance Series, a presentation by Dan Cohen (History and New Media, George Mason University) on how digital media are revolutionizing the archives, and a lively discussion by anthropologists Karen Ho (University of Minnesota) Hannah Chadeayne Appel (Columbia University) on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Other IAS Public Programming

In addition to the presentations and performances connected with Quadrant and the University Symposium, the IAS organized several notable events. Myron Gutmann (Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation) drew national attention with his talk “Questions Without Borders: Why Future Research and Teaching Will Be Interdisciplinary,” which was followed by a roundtable in which University of Minnesota faculty members David Fox (Earth Sciences), J. B. Shank (History), and Dominique Tobbell (History of Medicine) discussed specifics of interdisciplinary research and graduate and undergraduate education. Award-winning poet Ed Bok Lee read from his new collection Whorled and discussed life as a global citizen with Maria Damon (English). Indonesian filmmaker Gotot Prakosa screened and discussed his path-breaking (and originally banned) Kantata Takwa, an incisive, epic combination of rock opera, film-poem, and Islam-infused political protest.

I really wanted to thank you for bringing artists like Jaap to the University…. Today was just so awe-inspiring and encouraging. I’m probably not going to become a sound poet, but I don’t think I would have really considered how much courage it takes to do what he does had I not had the chance to hear him in such an intimate setting. So, thank you. Very much.   ~ undergraduate student

Residential Fellows

IAS residential fellows comprise faculty, graduate students, and outside scholars who spend a semester or year in residence at the IAS. Together they constitute a supportive interdisciplinary intellectual community in which fellows work intensively on their own research and creative projects and meet regularly to discuss their work and exchange ideas.

Each week, the residential fellows and IAS staff met over lunch to discuss one fellow’s work in progress.  Additionally, the fellows participated in informal lab sessions that varied from discussion of common problems in their work to workshops on publishing given by University of Minnesota Press editors. The fellows also took field trips together to local museums to see events curated or organized by cohort members, or to discuss possible areas of collaboration.

In 2011-12 the IAS hosted twelve University of Minnesota faculty fellows (representing twelve departments, six colleges and divisions, and three campuses), three Quadrant fellows, four graduate fellows,  and one visiting fellow, all for one semester, and an Interdisciplinary Doctoral fellow and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, both of whom were in residence for the full year. This year’s fellows worked on a wide range of projects that included a series of embroidered art pieces, an examination of the environmental turn in Japanese literature and film, an analysis of competing concepts of tribal identity among the Anishinaabeg, and a comparison of the experience of Somali migrants in South Africa, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. Fellows reported that both the time to devote to their work and the useful feedback they received contributed to substantial progress on their projects.

Probably the biggest change [in my work] came from the interest the other fellows expressed in my work, particularly during and after my lunchtime presentation. I had been thinking that the details of my current research would be of little interest to scholars in other fields—especially popular and theoretically engaged fields. But the others’ reaction showed me that this assumption was mistaken, which in turn has made a positive shift in how I think about my future projects and given me much optimism for the future of early China studies.  

Charles Sanft (East Asian Studies, University of Muenster), visiting fellow, Spring 2012

The IAS provided the physical space, the financial support, and the community of scholars for intellectual exchange that I needed to develop my project. It turned out I also needed a community of support and encouragement—seasoned scholars who have had their own misgivings, but have gone on to write books and earn tenure. The IAS offered this, too.

The IAS fellowship is the best of university life — having time and space to consider research with fellows who are doing the same. It is truly what intellectual life should be. 


Gregory Donofrio (Architecture), faculty fellow, Spring 2012

 Quadrant Program

The Quadrant Program, a joint project with the University of Minnesota Press funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides research residencies and other opportunities for collaborative interaction in four areas, or Quadrants, of interdisciplinary research, with the objective of promoting the research, development, publication, and dissemination of critical work in areas of particular interest and activity at the University.

The Design, Architecture, and Culture Quadrant focuses on sustainable development, design practices, uses of public space, and historic preservation. This Quadrant encourages work on the built environment examining how architectural and design practices are inscribed with cultural and social meaning. The Environment, Culture, and Sustainability Quadrant considers the social and cultural aspects of environmental policy, land use, and ecological sustainability and is attentive to theoretical projects dealing with their visual and textual representations. Focusing on the historical roots, current processes, and cultural impact of globalization, the Global Cultures Quadrant examines such issues as human rights, economic development, immigration, displacement, and migration. With a focus on the social impact of infection, disease, and medicine, the Health and Society Quadrant is interested in works dealing broadly with medical ethics, genetics, disability, illness, treatment issues, and the end of life.

In 2011-12 the IAS had three Quadrant fellows in residence; another seven scholars visited the University to present their research and workshop chapters of works in progress. Quadrant sponsored ten public presentations by visiting fellows and scholars and organized ten manuscript workshops for Quadrant fellows and visiting scholars. Two new books were published: The Interface: IBM and the Transformation of Corporate Design, 1945-1976 by John Harwood, and The Tourist State: Performing Leisure, Liberalism, and the Racial Imagination by Margaret Werry. This brings the total number of books in the Quadrant imprint to six. An additional nine books are under contract, and forty-one book projects are under development.

The environment was warm, welcoming and open, and I had a great time hearing about the other fellows’ work each week. The environment also afforded me the opportunity to engage seriously with other disciplines and understand how they receive and interpret my work (and me theirs); challenged me to think more creatively about how I am presenting my arguments; and provided a structure with benchmarks that ensured my progress toward my writing goals.  Adia Benton (Anthropology, Oberlin College), Quadrant fellow Fall 2011

Research and Creative Collaboratives

Each year the IAS supports ten or so Research and Creative Collaboratives. These are self-organized groups engaged in a variety of interdisciplinary projects. Collaboratives are chosen in an annual competition. The conveners submit a short proposal and budget which are reviewed by an Advisory Board committee; the IAS director makes the final award based on its recommendations. For 2010-11, these were nineteen applications; the IAS awarded up to $15,000 plus administrative support to ten collaboratives. Collaborative conveners are responsible for designing and leading the collaborative’s activities—which can involve speakers, workshops, reading groups, or rehearsals for original music, dance, or theater productions. Some groups form to pursue common research interests; others form with a particular object or product in mind, such as developing a cross-disciplinary curriculum in Disability Studies or creating a performance that arises out of active collaborative dialogue between biomechanical scientists and dancers. The expectation is that participants will pursue intellectual and creative activity that bridges disciplines and communities. Faculty report that they have used IAS collaboratives (such as Theorizing Early Modern Studies and Global Sexualities) to recruit graduate students. Of the 36 collaboratives we have funded over the life of the Institute, 21 were funded for one year; 12 were funded for two years, and 3 were funded for more than two years. Some of the collaboratives completed the tasks they set out to do; others found other funding. And some discovered that there was not in fact enough faculty energy to continue with the initial project.

University Symposium

The IAS organizes a University Symposium; each Symposium lasts two years. The theme of the Symposium is designed to catalyze conversations and advance innovative research and creative activity across the University of Minnesota. The Symposium topic is determined by the IAS Advisory Board and then developed by groups of faculty with interests related to the theme. In  2010-12 the topic was “Abundance & Scarcity.” The current 2012-2014 topic is “Site & Incitement.” The IAS holds monthly brown-bag lunches on topics relevant to the Symposium, organizes faculty seminars and curricula on the topic of the Symposium, and provides funding for faculty who are doing research on topics related to the Symposium. Faculty who meet for the first time at a Symposium roundtable often discover common interests that lead to collaborative research in innovative new directions.

A group of faculty serve as consultants as the IAS develops ideas for the topic; this group is self-selected from across the University, and members attend occasional planning meetings and offer feedback via email. Over 160 colleagues served on the Body & Knowing planning group; 72 are serving on the Abundance and Scarcity group. Faculty also propose projects for competitive awards for research and creative projects related to the Symposium, funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research. Faculty who receive these awards frequently participate in public events related to the Symposium; often these faculty members also participate in the planning group.

In 2009 the IAS offered its first faculty seminar, in conjunction with the University Symposium on Body & Knowing. Faculty seminars are taught by interdisciplinary teams of faculty who propose and design the seminar; participants are primarily other University faculty, but graduate students and community members are also welcome. Seminars are selected by a committee with representatives of the IAS board and the Office of the Vice President for Research. These seminars meet for one semester and are usually limited to ten participants. The faculty leaders of the seminar receive a course release each; faculty participants are paid a small stipend. The IAS has now offered two faculty seminars (“Beyond the Eye: Toward an Understanding of Non-Visual Theories and Methodologies” and “Corporeal Epistemologies: Knowing and Body Across the Disciplines”). Organizers and participants of the two Body & Knowing seminars uniformly agreed that the seminar was a formative experience and extraordinarily productive for their work. The great strength of the seminars is that the focus and curriculum is entirely based on the faculty leaders’ interests and driven by the participants’ contributions.