campus partner(s)

Vanderbilt University






Special Project

award date


project director

Steven J. Tepper

Vanderbilt University

Grant Summary

$25,000 over 12 months. Nationally, there has been a quiet but persistent effort to increase the "creative" capacity of university campuses by investing in the arts, and by building centers and programs that connect creative people working across disciplines. University leaders have recognized that fostering a lively creative campus is essential in order to attract and retain the best students and to prepare those students to thrive in an economy that increasingly relies on intellectual property and creative content. One way to foster creativity is to invest in the arts; in doing so, higher education institutions, collectively, have become the single biggest patron of the arts in America—as commissioners of new work, as employers of arts faculty, as training institutions for professional artists, as stewards of art collections, and as presenters of the performing arts. But in spite of these investments and the sheer quantity of our creative assets, universities and colleges have not looked systematically at the connection between a lively artistic scene, creativity more generally, and other important institutional outcomes.

To fill this gap, Vanderbilt University will host a research conference in fall 2006. The conference will feature five working groups, each comprised of scholars—primarily social scientists—from a variety of disciplines. Each working group will examine a separate theme—the role of art in fostering social capital and cosmopolitanism on campus; the link between student engagement and cultural participation; the economic dimensions (impact and costs) of university and college support for the arts; methods for mapping the creative campus; and strategies for measuring creativity on campus and assessing how the arts add value to colleges and universities. A planning grant from the Teagle Foundation will support the meeting of this last working group as it seeks to determine whether further assessment work in this area should be done.

The research conference will inform a report that outlines the most promising areas for future research, highlighting innovative methodologies and identifying opportunities for collaboration across institutions. In particular, this report will emphasize possible strategies for assessment—including addressing such questions as: How would you measure creativity and artistic vitality on a college campus? How would you assess the impact of the arts on both (1) recognized educational outcomes (retention, GPA, analytical reasoning) and (2) more elusive outcomes (curiosity, creativity, passion)? How might we compare campuses in order to understand how the arts create "value" across different institutions, where goals, shared values, organizational structure and available resources vary greatly? And, finally, how might university leaders compare results over time on their own campuses in order to track the gains from investments in creativity and the arts?