The Institute for Advanced Study was established in 2005 with funding provided by the President’s Interdisciplinary Initiative on Arts and Humanities. IAS was created to advance interdisciplinary and collaborative research and creative work among scholars, scientists, and artists at the University and in the broader community; to provide opportunities for sharing that work with colleagues and the broader public; and to serve as an incubator of new ideas. Ann Waltner was appointed as the Founding Director. Initially launched in the College of Liberal Arts, in 2008 the IAS was established as one of six University Interdisciplinary Centers that serve faculty from all colleges, professional schools, and system campuses at the University of Minnesota. The IAS is now an academic unit of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.
Under 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. Faculty Fellows and Research and Creative Collaboratives represented disciplines across the academy as well as work ranging from preliminary stages to completion of manuscripts or works of art. The Institute offered support to already established collaborative groups, such as Theorizing Early Modern Studies (TEMS); it 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. 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 the University’s specific location on the banks of one of the world’s great rivers. Capitalizing on this expertise, in 2013-15 the IAS hosted a John E. Sawyer Seminar, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, on “Making the Mississippi: Formulating New Water Narratives.
Jennifer Gunn began her tenure as the Institute’s second Director in August 2014. Under Gunn’s leadership, the IAS is expanding collaboration with other University interdisciplinary centers, seeking concrete ways to support interdisciplinarity and diversity in graduate education, and increasing the IAS profile at the University’s five other system campuses. The IAS has reconfigured the University Symposium from a bi-yearly focus on a specific theme to a more flexible effort to engage conversation across the University and surrounding community on current issues of the public good and the responsibility of our land-grant institution to the public.
From 2005 to 2010, the IAS was located in the Nolte Center. In 2011, the IAS’s staff and fellows were moved off campus to University Park Plaza, but public programming continued in the Nolte Center. In December 2013, the IAS moved into its permanent home in Northrop, the University’s iconic auditorium in the center of campus.