Michigan State University
Michigan State University
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Center of Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities
Center of Integrative Studies
in the Arts and Humanities


To provide excellence to students by introducing them to multiple ways of knowledge in an integrative approach, to support interdisciplinary arts and humanities teaching and research that engages with the community inside and outside MSU, to integrate instructional technology and active service learning in teaching in the arts and humanities, and to facilitate cross-disciplinary intellectual and scholarly interaction.


Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University seeks to assist students to:

  • Become more familiar with ways of knowing in the arts and humanities and to be more knowledgeable and capable in a range of intellectual and expressive abilities;
  • To engage critically with their own society, history, and culture(s);
  • To learn more about the history and culture of other societies.

IAH courses focus on key ideas and issues in human experience by:

  • Encouraging appreciation of the roles of knowledge and values in shaping and understanding human behavior;
  • Emphasizing the responsibilities and opportunities of democratic citizenship;
  • Highlighting the value of the creative arts of literature, theater, music, and arts;
  • Alerting us to important issues that occur among peoples in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent world.

The Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities works cooperatively with faculty and departments in the College of Arts and Letters, the College of Social Science (Department of History) and the College of Music to deliver the arts and humanities component of MSU's Integrative Studies Program.


The academic year 2016-2017 marks the 25th year that IAH courses have been offered at Michigan State University. So this is an opportune time both to reflect on the past quarter-century of IAH and to look forward to the quarter-century to come. The Council to Review the Undergraduate Experience, which recommended establishing an integrative studies approach to general education at MSU in 1988, observed, "In these increasingly complex times, 'preparing' for one specific kind of work has become nearly impossible. Even the most advanced preparation, in many fields, might well be obsolete in only a few years after graduation. Clearly, the undergraduate student must think relentlessly of ways to enhance a number of personal skills. The student must search for opportunities to develop adequate skills in writing and speaking, quantitative reasoning, reading critically and thinking evaluatively. The student must also realize that one of the most sophisticated skills is being able to choose from plentiful resources and create integration around areas of learning." (http://acadgov.msu.edu/historical-reports/crue/dedication).

What was true in the late-20th century is even more true in the early-21st century. The overriding goal for the IAH curriculum thus is not simply to expose students to the arts and humanities but rather to prepare students for the complex world in which they now live and in which they will pursue their careers after they graduate from Michigan State. We want students to think critically and creatively about the nature of the human condition and to engage with enduring questions that are all the more relevant in the world of the 21st century: What does it mean to be "human" at a time when a range of technologies have begun to blur the lines between the human and the non-human, nature and culture? What is the nature of justice in a globalized world marked by inequality, poverty, civil strife, and political upheaval? In short, how does one live a good, meaningful life in the 21st century? We want students in our courses to engage with the challenge of being both productive and ethical as they prepare to live and work in a globalized environment in which the local impacts the global, and the global shapes the local.

So the IAH curriculum is designed to be more than just two degree requirements that simply need to be checked off on the route to earning a baccalaureate at Michigan State University. Our courses offer interdisciplinary approaches to some of the most fundamental and meaningful issues of being human in the contemporary world. But our courses are not simply interdisciplinary—exploring the connections between and within the disciplines in the arts and humanities—but rather are intended to be integrative learning experiences. We want our courses to foster students' understanding of and appreciation for the diversities of the human experience; and we want our students to integrate what they learn in their IAH courses into their own lives. To borrow from Veronica Boix Mansilla's discussion of integrative learning in the Fall 2008 issue of Peer Review, our ambition is for every IAH course "to create a learning community that fosters both intellectual and personal engagement leading to enhanced understanding, respect, and the celebration of differences from the conviction that the skills and knowledge derived from such engagement prepare individuals for meaningful and productive lives as workers and citizens" (31).

Kirk S. Kidwell
Director and Associate Professor