College Receives $200,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Participants in the Waste Land exhibition in November 2013

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded CCA a $200,000 grant, one of largest awards made to an art college. The three-year grant will support CCA’s innovative Exploring Science in the Studio project.

CCA’s award is part of the NSF’s TUES (Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program, which seeks to improve the quality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for all undergraduate students.

“A Model to Transform Science Education”

The NSF review panel praised the CCA grant proposal stating, “This project may serve as a model to transform science education at art and design schools so that science is not simply fulfilling a general education requirement, but becomes integrated into the arts and allows art and design students to develop an understanding of their field from a science-based perspective.”

Stuart Kendall, chair of Critical Studies, and Christine Metzger, CCA's first tenure-track assistant professor of earth and environmental science, have been leading the Exploring Science in the Studio initiative; their efforts were key to obtaining the NSF grant.

“It’s highly unusual for an art school to receive funds from the NSF,” stated Metzger. “However, the foundation is dedicated to increasing science literacy for all students and in particular, nonsciences undergraduates. It’s very exciting that the panelists saw promise in our program.”

Grant Will Support Three Initiatives

The NSF grant will support and enhance three main components of the Exploring Science in the Studio program:

  • Embedded scientists: bringing science instruction directly into the studio environment
  • Mobile Units for Science Exploration (MUSE): designing mobile lab units that will allow instructors to bring science equipment into the studios
  • Symposium in 2015–16 academic year: hosting a science conference for other colleges of art and design

The funds will allow the college to continue bringing scientists into the studio courses, an initiative that began at CCA in 2011. The college will also be able to purchase new scientific equipment, some of which will travel from campus to campus, studio to studio via mobile lab units.

The units will be designed and created in a Graduate Design studio led by faculty member Paul Montgomery in spring 2014.

In the final year of the grant, CCA will host a science symposium for other art colleges affiliated with AICAD (Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design), a consortium of 43 institutions in the US and Canada.

About Exploring Science in the Studio

Exploring Science in the Studio has been a pilot program at CCA since 2011. Interdisciplinary thematic studios are offered that satisfy undergraduate science requirements and represent the college's principal areas of study: architecture, design, fine arts, humanities and sciences, and diversity studies.

The theme for the Exploring Science in the Studio project changes every two years, and each theme addresses a specific area of study. Water was the inaugural theme in 2010 and 2012, and for 2012 and 2013, the theme is waste.

The theme for upcoming years is sustainability.

The studio courses culminate in a student exhibition that showcases the students' themed projects. Thus far, the exhibitions have taken place on the Oakland campus: Water Works: Out of Water took place February 4-11, 2011, at the Tecoah Bruce Gallery at the Oliver Art Center; and Waste Land: Where Science and Art Meet took place November 6-10, 2012, and November 5–9, 2013, at the College Avenue Galleries.

See images of Water Works 2011»
See images of Waste Land 2012 »
See images of Waste Land 2013 »

The Intersection of Art and Science

CCA President Stephen Beal recently wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post, “As practiced today, the arts and sciences have much in common. The studio and the laboratory are learn-by-doing, learn-by-making educational experiences. The iterative process and experimentation are key components to advances and discoveries in both fields.”

CCA has made a significant commitment to sustainability, which is imbedded throughout the curriculum and throughout its business practices.

In addition, the college has launched a number of sustainability initiatives and formed partnerships with other like-minded institutions and organizations.

Read more sustainability news »

CCA Students "Keen" on Science

“[CCA students] are the keenest science students I’ve ever had. They are passionate about what they do and want to incorporate what they learn in their own practices,” said Metzger, whose “Bad Science at the Movies” course is a perennial favorite.

She added with a chuckle, “Of course, I periodically have to tell my students what they’re imagining is not currently possible in the physical world as we know it. But it never dampens their enthusiasm.”