Gonzaga’s Academic Council is allowing students to merge their artistic talents after approving Suzanne Ostersmith’s interdisciplinary arts minor in December.
Ostersmith, dance program director and instructor at Gonzaga, has taught at the university for 15 years and holds her own MFA degree from Goddard College in interdisciplinary arts. She hopes to share her passions for theater, dance and visual arts with the community at Gonzaga through her new program.
The minor consists of three lower-division courses in theater, dance and the visual arts, as well as one upper-division course in each of these areas. It also includes one production credit and a senior project combining the different art forms. Ostersmith also hopes to include an e-portfolio that caters to both the majors of her students and their interdisciplinary arts minors.
“I think there are many students at Gonzaga with very academic majors that still have a hunger for the arts,” she said. “There is this notion that people cannot make money in the arts, but I want to structure this program to take those skills in the arts and integrate them into a chosen career field. I want it to be a synthesis with the student’s major.”
The minor does not exclude other areas of Gonzaga’s vibrant arts community. If students are interested in an area such as choral music, that coursework could be folded into the minor.
Dr. Kathleen Jeffs, theater and Dance program chair responsible for aiding Ostersmith in her submission process, emphasized that the program will be tailored to each individual student.
“It can focus in on the arts that they are interested in,” she said. “We want students to be able to continue on with any passions they may have had in high school and actually get a certification in interdisciplinary arts.”
She also cited the minor as one that will target STEM students along with traditional arts students.
“I think it’s going to attract a different kind of student,” she stated. “This minor could be incredibly applicable to someone, for instance, studying biology.”
Ostersmith sees the transition from a STEM to a STEAM education, STEAM including the arts, as transformative for students at Gonzaga and business people.
“I think the ability to speak to the arts in this way would be a great selling point for an employer,” she said.
Ostersmith teaches an interdisciplinary arts class to online GU graduate students and successful corporate leaders from across the country.
“It’s great to see how this influences their leadership in their businesses back home,” she said. “This speaks to the fact that the interdisciplinary arts are not just helpful for other artists, but people of many different fields.”
Jeffs added that she believes this minor would give students a competitive edge in the workforce.
“We have evidence that employers are looking for creative people in all fields,” she said. “This minor is like a stamp of approval from Gonzaga.”
The minor is a project over a year in the making. According to Jeffs, both she and Ostersmith had to jump through numerous hoops before presenting the proposal to the Academic Council.
“It began with taking the proposal to our department, and then Suzanne took it to the chairpersons of music and arts,” she said. “That was important because without their approval, it wouldn’t have really worked. We needed the chairs of other departments to be on board.”
When the proposal was brought before the Academic Council, it passed unanimously. Jeffs cited the minor’s flexibility as a reason for its positive reception.
Ostersmith’s assimilation of the interdisciplinary arts into the Gonzaga community began with her class in the subject. She described it as a class about the creative process where students problem-solve through the arts.
“The purpose of the class is to tell a story and explore a concept,” she said. The class objective includes words like collaboration, perception, emotion, cognition and kindness. According to Ostersmith, her goal is to allow students to make art about complex problems integrating various media.
Ostersmith seeks to bring interdisciplinary arts to the campus in areas other than the minor and her course. Her production work along with the GU arts embodies the spirit of art integration.
Ostersmith’s “Weaving our Sister’s Voices” brought together her love for theater, dance and art, along with information about biblical women gained through the religious studies department.
She is confident that this minor will impact the Gonzaga community in a holistic manner.
“I think it will allow professors from many different departments to interact with each other,” she said. “The students and faculty can approach tasks with a creative and artistic mind through this program.”
Ostersmith also cited the new performing arts center opening in 2018 as a transformative event in the department. The building will include an interdisciplinary arts studio.
“This type of art is not only manifesting itself in academic programming, but also in this new building,” she said.
She is thrilled to call GU her performing arts home and is glad that she can offer her multifaceted enthusiasm to the campus.
“I am so proud to be here and that the Academic Council is embracing this,” she said.
Students can see the interdisciplinary arts in action this weekend at “Dido and Aeneas." The opera features the talents of members from both the theatre and dance and music departments.