MAY 31, 2023 — The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has approved the creation of an Interdisciplinary School for Engagement in the Humanities and Social Sciences within the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA). The new school will launch in fall 2023 and will be known as the “E-school” for short.
The establishment of the school is an outcome of COLFA’s Tactical Visioning exercise. Starting in the fall of 2021, COLFA initiated the exercise to identify its greatest strengths and opportunities, lay the groundwork for future strategic planning, and coalesce a shared identity amongst its nine academic departments.
The mission of the Interdisciplinary School is to create and sustain an interdisciplinary environment that integrates knowledge from the arts, humanities, and social sciences in ways that engage with and respond to contemporary challenges in San Antonio and globally. To start, the Interdisciplinary School will house four programs with varied curriculum that reaches across the entirety of the academically diverse college: a B.A. in Medical Humanities, the Minor in Latin American Studies, the Minor in Museum Studies and the new Film/Media program.
Over time, COLFA hopes to expand the school to encompass innovative and highly attractive programs in areas including, but not limited to, Borderlands Studies, Data and Society, Environmental Studies, Global Studies, East Asian Studies, Community Engaged Cultural and Language Studies, and Public Humanities and Social Sciences.
The new Interdisciplinary School will be led by Sean Kelly, former dean of the UTSA Honors College. Kelly will oversee the leadership, planning and development of the new school to bring visibility to UTSA’s existing interdisciplinary efforts in humanities and social sciences.
“This new school will supplement the amazing work our faculty do in their disciplines. It will build bridges between faculty who can collaborate with our other outstanding researchers,” Kelly said. “At the same time, the Interdisciplinary School will help the College of Liberal and Fine Arts prepare students to address global challenges and opportunities that, increasingly, require interdisciplinary collaboration and solutions.”
As part of the Tactical Visioning process, two COLFA departments have already transitioned from departments into schools: the School of Art and the School of Music. These shifts have made the departments more competitive with peer institutions nationally and are facilitating philanthropic initiatives to further enhance already robust departmental studios, laboratories and technical spaces for students.
The School of Art was created from the Department of Art as UTSA completed its merger with Southwest School of Art in 2022. Since the integration, UTSA has expanded the school's reach in arts education, increased community engagement and elevated creative literacy through an expansion of teaching and studio space.
Another piece of the vision for COLFA is building a School of Communication. This transition will include building additional degree programs, creating a Center for Dialogue through the Dialogue Initiative, and launching new student involvement opportunities.
The Department of Communication’s Dialogue Initiative responds to UTSA’s vision of “preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.” The initiative’s goals include encouraging students to listen with empathy, open-mindedness and curiosity and to develop communication knowledge, skills and experience in listening, dialogue, facilitation, conflict and deliberation. The initiative is led by professors Laurie Lewis and Sara DeTurk with the support of several faculty in Communication and across the university. Students who participate in the initiative’s projects will be better equipped to consider multiple viewpoints, listen empathetically, and collectively and critically examine highly complex value-laden problems.
Lewis explains, “This initiative has already sponsored several campus dialogues about topics of controversy and importance surrounding social justice issues (e.g., racial justice, gender in popular culture, mental health challenges, and relations between the U.S. and Islam). In the upcoming year, we are working on launching initiatives related to civic technology, community dialogues in San Antonio, and Digital Storytelling among others. All of these projects provide UTSA students opportunities to learn and practice skills necessary for the workplace, community building and deliberative democracy.”
"With these substantive changes in motion, the COLFA Tactical Visioning Process now is complete," shared COLFA Dean Glenn Martinez. “I am eager to work together with our outstanding COLFA faculty and staff as we grow into this exciting and innovative vision for COLFA. The combination of a first-rate group of faculty and staff, great students and unflinching community support fuels my optimism and faith in the very bright future that awaits COLFA as we continue to lean into being the college that UTSA needs.”
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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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