KU launches Health Humanities and Arts Research Collaborative

LAWRENCE — During a summer in which countless research projects across the University of Kansas were stalled on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, a small group of Lawrence and KU Medical Center-based administrators and faculty members met to brainstorm opportunities for collaboration among health professionals, researchers and students in the arts and humanities. They named this initiative the Health Humanities and Arts Research Collaborative (HHARC).

In early June, more than 100 researchers across disciplines, campuses and institutions gathered for the first meeting of HHARC over Zoom. In four months, the group has nearly doubled. It now includes regional and national institutions of higher learning and community partners who are exploring topics of relevance across the humanities, arts and health.

HHARC is an initiative based in The Commons and led by Emily Ryan, director of The Commons, in collaboration with Tamara Falicov, professor of film & media studies and associate dean for research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Teri Kennedy, Endowed Professor and associate dean of interprofessional practice, education, policy & research with the School of Nursing at the KU Medical Center; and Katie Rhine, associate professor of geography & atmospheric science and African & African-American studies.

“The HHARC has provided an opportunity to work interprofessionally, bridging the silos we’ve built between health and humanities and the arts, between disciplines and campuses, and between institutions and communities. Our virtual gatherings offer new ways to view and think about our work, forge new academic/community partnerships (e.g., nursing and architecture), and open up new sources of funding,” Kennedy said.

The group hosts a monthly meetup, which serves to introduce a developing research project, written by scholars and practitioners across disciplines, and to offer networking opportunities around affinity topics. Growing areas of interest include aging, health disparities, humanities in health professions curricula and language revitalization. In addition, HHARC offers regular Coffee & Conversation events to introduce resources or dig deeper into emerging themes. “Info Share” sessions are presented to develop skills around interdisciplinary research opportunities.

“HHARC is an exciting and fruitful way to bridge geographical and disciplinary borders through Zoom,” Falicov said. ”Meeting with faculty from both campuses has helped us bridge the divide between KU Lawrence closer to KU Medical Center. The frequency by which we meet has already enabled multiple points of discussion, research collaboration and, most importantly, it has helped our faculty researchers challenge and expand the boundaries of their group research questions and methodologies. It is positively changing our research to make it more holistic as it incorporates multiple perspectives from various disciplines.”

With support from the Office of Research, tailored funding opportunities are presented on a regular basis.

“Ethics, culture, history, globalization and creative expression are so obviously central to understanding how and why COVID-19 has had the impacts that it has had,” Rhine said. “We felt a real sense of urgency to bring professionals, community members, researchers and students together to find common ground and purpose.”

Rhine is working closely with HHARC program assistant and honors undergraduate Radhia Abdirahman to bridge these opportunities to students in the University Honors Program, the School of Nursing Honors Program and the Multicultural Scholars Program. While fieldwork, publications and presentations are the more visible and celebrated dimensions of research, Rhine said that there is a lot that students can learn, even remotely, by working alongside faculty at these early stages of the research process.

“Whether it is learning how to write grants, explore digital archives or even just having conversations with scholars in fields outside the ones you are most familiar with...these are the building blocks of ground-breaking research,” Rhine said.

For more information about how to become involved, or to schedule a presentation to learn how HHARC can be a value-added to your program, email Emily Ryan or attend future events.

Upcoming events:

Info Share: Understanding Collaborative Roles on an Interdisciplinary Research Project
2-3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8

Health Humanities and Arts Research Collaborative: Monthly Meetup
Noon-1 p.m. Oct. 16
Register here: 

Info Share: Human Subjects Research and Institutional Review Board (IRB) Processes
Noon-1 p.m. Nov. 6.

Fri, 10/02/2020


Emily Ryan

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Emily Ryan

The Commons