University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

The University Symposium serves to focus scholarly and creative activity over a two-year period to explore critical issues from a variety of vantage points. These explorations are conducted through a series of connected events, including public lectures, conferences, and research and creative collaboratives. The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) funds research and creative projects relevant to the overarching theme of the Symposium.

A Two-Year Cycle

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.  Launched in 2006, the first symposium focused on the Politics of Populations. Subsequent symposium topics are Time, Body & Knowing, and Abundance & Scarcity. The 2012-14 University Symposium Site & Incitement continues this tradition, offering an opportunity to incite creative interactions and innovative thinking through interdisciplinary endeavors, ranging from public lectures and exhibits to faculty fellowships and research initiatives.  The IAS holds monthly brown-bag lunches on topics relevant to the Symposium and organizes faculty seminars and curricula on the topic of 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.

Symposium events

Devoloping Ideas

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 served on the Abundance and Scarcity group.

First Faculty Seminar

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.