Confluencenter's Innovation Farm Supports Scholarly, Artistic Collaborations
Pilot programs related to Buddhist studies, documentary films and human rights have been selected to be part of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry's Innovation Farm, a new program that supports original and collaborative projects at the UA.
In an effort to promote interdisciplinary collaborations on campus, the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry started partnering this year with the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research to provide two years of Innovation Farm seed money and staff support to interdisciplinary working groups of four or more faculty members. At least two of the working group's members must represent the College of Fine Arts, the College of Humanities or the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
"The Innovation Farm program provides an excellent opportunity for larger groups of faculty and other stakeholders to work together in projects that have the potential of achieving larger, sustainable objectives, including outside funding," said Javier Duran, director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry, which was established in 2010 to support interdisciplinary collaborations at the UA.
"We hope that these seed funds will galvanize existing partnerships as well as foster creative conversations that may lead to the establishment of specific programs or specialized hubs of research in the near future," Duran said. "The three working groups that emerged from this year's selection process denote a variety of existing synergies on our campus that represent the confluence of people, space and place."
The Innovation Farm program is different from the Confluencenter's Faculty Collaboration Grants program, which awards up to $20,000 to teams of two or more faculty annually.
To be selected for Innovation Farm support, a program must demonstrate innovation and collaboration between disciplines. It also must include public engagement aspects and have the potential to secure long-term funding from external grants and private donors.
"The Innovation Farm program helps launch innovative projects that make lasting contributions to scholarly and artistic life at the UA," said Heather Gray, community engagement coordinator for the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry.
The first Innovation Farm working group includes participants from four colleges, including 20 faculty members, who are collaboratively planning a Buddhist studies minor and community lecture series. Although the Buddhist studies working group is funded by a private donor, it will receive nonfinancial support through the Innovation Farm program.
The remaining two groups will receive $14,000 each, dispersed over the course of two years, through the Innovation Farm program.
The second Innovation Farm working group, led by Gender and Women's Studies professor Bill Simmons, is creating an online searchable database of human rights stakeholders from around the world willing to participate in video conferences. The group will create a forum where university instructors, high school teachers, students, community groups and government officials will be able to connect with experienced human rights advocacy experts.
"The faculty in our team are enthusiastic about this project, and we are already busy designing the website, brainstorming about ways to use it, and networking with scholars and practitioners around the globe to make it happen," Simmons said. "It's wonderful to be part of a project where almost everyone who hears about it gets excited and starts envisioning ways they could make use of it. We want the website to be scalable and organic so that it can incorporate the insights of the global human rights community as it grows, so that it is not just something used by human rights practitioners, but is created by human rights practitioners."
"Bill Simmons has done extensive groundwork to ensure the success of his project, which has potential for global reach across government, nonprofit, academic and a wide variety of public sectors in the interest of human rights," Gray said of the program.
The third working group is led by Beverly Seckinger, a professor in the School of Theatre, Film and Television, and will conduct pilot activities to prepare for the establishment of a Center for Documentary Studies at the UA. The center will provide students and faculty with technical and editorial skills needed to effectively present research in visual media.
Seckinger said that in addition to providing training and support for making films, the center also will centralize documentary screenings and film promotion at the UA.
"In recent years especially, everybody wants video about their research," she said. "There's more and more interest in screening and making documentaries, but not a place to go to learn about them on campus."
"Sharing research can be powerful and seamless with the right audiovisual communications skills," Gray said. "The Center for Documentary Studies will provide a hub for learning multimedia and storytelling tools that are necessary in the scholar's tool kit."
In order to continue promoting originality and innovation in the future, Gray said she encourages faculty members to think outside the box when submitting applications for the next round of Innovation Farm funding, which will be due in March.
"The Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry encourages faculty to think outside their disciplines and far into the future to envision a collaborative project that addresses some of the grand challenges of today, and leaves a lasting impact on scholarly and creative life tomorrow," she said.