Arts-related experiences help students become adaptable, creative problem solvers
Virginia Tech students are more involved with the arts than ever before, said Ruth Waalkes, Virginia Tech’s associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Moss Arts Center, who spoke Monday to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.
During her presentation, Waalkes noted how the university’s diverse range of creative experiences, offered both inside and outside the classroom, is preparing students to become adaptable and multifaceted citizens of the world.
“Here at Virginia Tech, we know that integrating the arts into student experiences at every level produces amazing outcomes,” Waalkes said. “Creative thinkers and doers approach problems from a human-centric perspective, making sure thoughts and feelings, particularly empathy, inform their work. The students who understand themselves and others — those who have these unique perspectives — are the students who are going to create change in the world.”
The arts are being tightly woven into the fabric of the campus through efforts collectively known as Arts@VirginiaTech. The number of required general education art credit hours has increased for all Virginia Tech undergraduates, and the university offers a wide range of experiential arts opportunities. Students are actively seeking these kinds of arts-related experiences, which include attending live performances, joining one of the many music ensembles on campus, and engaging with visiting artists during master classes or craft talks.
“From traditional classrooms and lecture halls to computer labs and research studios, creativity and innovation are not only present, they're palpable. Creative students from different disciplines are teaming up and discovering the importance of learning not only depth in one discipline, but breadth over a wide range of exploration,” Waalkes said.
In addition to its undergraduate and graduate programs, the School of Visual Arts in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies offers an arts and society minor that serves students from across the university, and its work involving design thinking — human-centered creative problem-solving — is embedded in curricula across all colleges. The university’s School of Performing Arts in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences engages students from across campus in classes, performances, ensembles, integrated curricular offerings, and applied research.
Students are connecting with likeminded colleagues at Studio 72, an on-campus living-learning community launched in 2017 that encourages creative approaches to challenges with an emphasis on collaborative art-making. Studio 72 residents come from all of Virginia Tech’s colleges.
Innovative research happening at the intersection of science, engineering, art, and design is being cultivated by the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). The institute, which houses two centers that focus on smart design and education and outreach, provides funding and fully equipped spaces for faculty and student research, serves as a hub for maker/design thinking initiatives and inspires, connects, and informs through educational experiences open to the public.
Students find inspiration and new learning opportunities through sights and sounds from around the world with the programs and exhibitions offered by the Moss Arts Center. Students, who comprise nearly 30 percent of audiences, have access to $10 tickets and free day-of rush tickets to center performances. They experience diverse voices and fresh perspectives, alongside time-honored classics and traditions, from world-renowned artists.
Beyond performance attendance, more than 3,000 students engage with the Moss Arts Center each year through experiential learning opportunities, including master classes, talks, workshops, and class visits, which allow them to connect more deeply with professional artists and make meaningful connections.
The arts are a highly valued part of life at Virginia Tech. By integrating the arts throughout the university through classroom experiences, co-curricular opportunities, public engagement, and research that traverses traditional boundaries, all the communities the university serves benefit.