Past Programs

Grasping Water

Grasping Water was a symposium hosted by the IAS and held on the Twin Cities campus June 13-16, 2016. The symposium was attended by an international cohort of scientists, academics, and artists studying three of the world's great river regions--the United States, Africa, and China--and included talks, breakout sessions, and off-site activities. Major funding and support for the symposium was provided by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI).

From the symposium introduction

Grasping Water examines rivers ecologically, at the intersection of the physical world and human culture, in ways that demand both humanistic and scientific perspectives. The attempt to control rivers—to minimize flooding, to facilitate transportation, and to provide water for drinking, irrigation, and electric power—is one of the great enterprises of human history. It is an enterprise with a checkered history: the control of nature has proven to be a vexed question. The question of control of rivers is deeply political: who sets the priorities for river use, who invests in river projects, where is knowledge about rivers produced, who benefits from river control? How do rivers figure into narratives about local meaning and identity, and who sets the terms for those conversations? The Institute will look at ways in which communities and political entities in China, North America, and Africa have dealt with the problem of controlling rivers in comparative and historical perspective.

University Symposium

Grand Challenges and the Land-Grant Institution

In Fall 2015, the IAS advisory board resolved to change how the University Symposium was organized. Formerly, the Symposium was a two-year examination of a theme or topic chosen by the board. Instead, the board determined that the IAS was uniquely positioned to take on critical questions and convene University-wide discussions about them. As the University community considers Grand Challenges and the responsibilities of a land-grant institution, the IAS can serve an important role in bringing together the many people across the University who are engaged in related work—creating connections, determining what can be done to address critical problems, and working toward concrete outcomes.

In conjunction with this new focus on critical problems and Grand Challenges, the IAS is featuring Critical Conversations, a series of online essays and discussions addressing issues articulated in the Strategic Plan and Grand Challenges, and pressing concerns within the University and our broader community.

Two-Year Themes

Until Fall 2015, the University Symposium focused on a theme which was examined for a two-year period. The theme of the Symposium was designed to catalyze conversations and advance innovative research and creative activity across the University of Minnesota. The Symposium topic was determined by the IAS advisory board and then developed by groups of faculty with interests related to the theme.  Launched in 2005, the first symposium focused on the Politics of Populations. Subsequent symposium topics were Time, Body & Knowing, Abundance & Scarcity, Site & Incitement, and Strategy. The Symposium offered an opportunity to incite creative interactions and innovative thinking through interdisciplinary endeavors, ranging from public lectures and exhibits to faculty fellowships and research initiatives.  Faculty who met for the first time at a Symposium roundtable often discovered common interests that lead to collaborative research in innovative new directions.


The Quadrant Program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and developed in cooperation with the Office of the Provost and the Graduate School, was a joint initiative with the University of Minnesota Press.  Quadrant provided 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 focused on sustainable development, design practices, uses of public space, and historic preservation. This Quadrant encouraged work on the built environment examining how architectural and design practices are inscribed with cultural and social meaning. The Environment, Culture, and Sustainability Quadrant considered 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 examined 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 examined works dealing broadly with medical ethics, genetics, disability, illness, treatment issues, and the end of life.With the combined resources of Mellon, the Press, and the IAS, Quadrant provided tools for scholars to pursue interdisciplinary work and offered a new, more collaborative model of scholarly research and publication. Quadrant’s structure was designed to be a significant transformation of current models of scholarly publication and collaborative work and to be an equally significant relocation of the place of the press within the university itself. During 2011-12, the Quadrant collaboration between the IAS and the University of Minnesota Press continued in its fourth year with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Three semester-long residencies and seven short-term scholarly visits were funded, in addition to support for works in press and in progress. 

Quadrant Books Series

The Quadrant Books series launched in fall 2010 with the publication of Rebecca R. Scott’s Removing Mountains: Extracting Nature and Identity in the Appalachian Coalfields and Rebirth of the Clinic: Places and Agents in Contemporary Health Care, edited by Cindy Patton. In spring 2011 two more Quadrant books were published: Laura Ogden’s Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades and Lisa Anna Richey and Stefano Ponte’s Brand Aid: Shopping Well to Save the World

About the Quadrant Fellowships

From 2007 through 2012, the Quadrant program held an annual, worldwide competition for fellowships that were awarded to sixteen interdisciplinary scholars. During their semester in residence at the IAS in Minneapolis, the Quadrant fellows receive a stipend of up to $30,000, depending on rank and experience. At the IAS, fellows participated in weekly lunches and public lectures with a lively interdisciplinary community that includes University of Minnesota fellows and other Quadrant fellows. They were also involved in at least one of Quadrant’s research and publishing collaboratives. Fellows gave a public lecture and presented a work-in-progress in a workshop setting with their Quadrant collaborative group or groups. In addition, they work directly with an editor from the University of Minnesota Press to develop their manuscripts for submission. Quadrant fellowship applications are no longer being accepted.

Quadrant Sponsoring Units