Diversity Initiatives

The College of Fine and Applied Arts at Illinois understands the important role diversity plays in its vision of being a preeminent center of innovation, scholarship, instruction, and engagement in design and the arts. Consistent with its 2014–17 College Strategy, FAA is bolstering efforts to embrace difference at all levels. Following are some of the ways in which we worked toward this goal during the past year.

Diversity Initiatives 2017-18

The college’s diversity task force has continued to make great strides through the development of recommendations for strengthening recruitment and retention of faculty and staff from underrepresented groups; a subsequent diversity advocacy team began implementing key task force recommendations. The task force report also charted a path for the college to play a lead role in addressing campus-wide issues involving racism, discrimination, and bias. Selected members of the team attended an in-depth workshop entitled “Undoing Racism.” The impact and growth experienced by the members in attendance led to the planning of a college workshop. More than 40 FAA faculty and staff have been invited to participate in the same 2 1/2-day workshop conducted by People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. This program will provide an opportunity for our community to engage in deep discussions about race as our college community moves forward to address issues of diversity and inclusion. 

Increasing the diversity of the FAA student population has continued to be goal for the college. The Fall 2017 freshman class currently sits at 400 students and shows a 45% increase in diversity over the previous year. FAA Admissions began visiting classrooms with FAA presentations in Fall 2013 and have consistently visited 20–30 schools annually since. Approximately 90% of schools visited are in the Chicagoland area and are made up of diverse populations. This year we partnered with Pass with Flying Colors to present Creative Careers at a variety of schools in Chicago. This organization helps first-generation students prepare for college via afterschool programming. The schools in which they are based are predominantly Latino. The results of this outreach have been consistent increases in diverse applications year after year. We are now up 33% from where our diverse applications were before this outreach started.

Supported by a Fall 2018 appointment to the Center for Advanced Study, Music’s Donna A. Buchanan's forthcoming book, The Girl in the Bell: Audible Cosmologies of Bulgarian Belief, investigates the pivotal significance of bells in contemporary Bulgarian expression—as artistic and historical objects, gendered instruments of spirituality and politics, and sonic metaphors of musical beauty and world view. 

Department of Dance’s guest artist Michelle Gibson brought her rich New Orleans culture to our community through tradition, ritual, testimony, movement, and music with her own New Orleans Second Line Aesthetic. She created the work Displaced Yet Rebirth for our students as a memorial and reflection of the 11-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Kirsten Pullen was named new department head for the Department of Theatre. Dr. Pullen will be the first female head for the department and holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Theatre Research with particular emphasis on United States female performers and performance theory in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In Professor Adam Kruse’s “Introduction to Music Education Technology” course, students learn recording and hip-hop production skills as part of the School’s revised Music Education curriculum launched in Fall 2016. The course reflects Kruse’s larger research project: a practical and theoretical effort to embed emerging musical practices in K–12 classrooms in order to connect with a more diverse cohort of students.

Illinois Summer Youth Music (ISYM) has expanded from three to four one-week sessions, engaging more than 1,000 young people each year in an even more diverse variety of music making activities, especially in contemporary genres. New offerings include ISYM Hip-Hop and the Pre-College Chamber Academy, alongside the ever-popular band, orchestra, choral, jazz, rock band, and piano programs.

Alumni Tyrone Phillips (BFA 2012) and Nathan Alan Davis (BFA 2005) kicked off the Department of Theatre’s season with a splash. Their production of Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea caught the attention of members from the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, students, faculty, and community members. They offered two very well-attended talkbacks for patrons with Tyrone Phillips, Professor Peter Davis, and the cast, with more than 120 participants. This production spurred many interesting and lively conversations in our community and our region on the nature of the African American experience.

Dr. Kemal C. Nance, will join the Department of Dance and African American Studies as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2017.  Dr. Nance’s expertise in Umfundalai, a form of contemporary African American dance, and his interest in challenging constructs surrounding black masculinity, will further the department’s commitment to building a more diverse curriculum and strengthen our community engagement activities.

The Japan House started the planning process for creating a fully accessible tea room. This is a radical approach to creating a traditional tea room but important in continuing the reach of the Way of Tea and its concepts of Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku, or harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.

The School of Art and Design’s commitment to community, diversity, and inclusivity in all activities continued through a faculty retreat, the new student-run Bloc Gallery, and a partnership with Black Girl Genius Week to host an exhibition.

Japan House is developing an online class in Japanese Aesthetics which will bring together students and Japanese artists and designers, furthering the accessibility and reach of the sharing of traditional Japanese arts and culture in a way that is economically feasible.

Architecture hosted the first FOREFRONT Symposium, a convening of principles in architecture, development, engineering, finance, and government. The purpose of FOREFRONT is to build relationships, learn how their research can have impact in (and on) practice, and discuss how to best prepare the next generation of architects for a profession that continues to evolve at a breathtaking pace.

In the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, a strategic faculty hire will strengthen their transportation offerings and help make better connections to the Chicago-area and their planning challenges. The Master of Urban Planning program continues to grow in both numbers and diversity of students and has created more hands-on opportunities in central Illinois, Chicago, and beyond.

As part of Landscape Architecture’s Sasaki Day, the school hosted a cross-disciplinary Sesquicentennial Design Competition. The design competition attracted students from 18 majors, including computer science, environmental engineering, graphic design, global studies, anthropology, architecture, planning, and psychology. The student teams developed designs for campus installations that communicate essential information about Illinois’ most significant achievements from the past 150 years.

The School of Architecture continued to create a learning environment which stimulates conversation and action around the themes of diversity and inclusivity through events such as Rosa Sheng’s Equity-by-Design lecture and the NOMAS (Illinois chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students) Symposium.