When Joanna Grabski took over as director of the School of Art at Arizona State University, she increased enrollment 20%, rebranded it as a globally oriented school for the 21st century, established several interdisciplinary and cross-program collaborations, increased access to the arts for an expanded community of learners, and designed new programs and initiatives to leverage ASU’s No. 1 ranking in innovation as well as its commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
Now Grabski has been named the next dean for the College of Integrative Science and Arts, ASU’s fourth-largest college. It’s home to more than 6,300 undergraduate majors at ASU’s Polytechnic, Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses as well as the Lake Havasu location and ASU Online, with more than 200 graduate students and more than 350 faculty.
It’s a springboard from community colleges into the university system and a landing pad for returning adults who want to complete their degrees. The college’s degrees integrate applied learning, creativity and theory and include specialty fields such as technical communication and user experience, sustainable horticulture, natural resource ecology, preveterinary medicine and counseling psychology.
With a doctorate in art history and African studies from Indiana University, Grabski has applied sustained participatory ethnographic practices and interviews in studying African artists for more than two decades. This work includes two books, numerous articles, curated exhibitions and a feature length documentary film about the narratives around a secondhand goods market in Dakar, Senegal. Her work has been supported by several fellowships, grants and awards, including from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
She begins her new position July 1. ASU News sat down with her to discuss her new role and what she hopes to accomplish.
Question: You are stepping into a different role from what you've done before. How do you feel about that?
Answer: I am incredibly excited and very honored to have the opportunity to lead the college and to continue contributing to ASU. I'm absolutely thrilled — over the moon actually.
Q: What direction do you want to take the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts?
A: The critical thing will be for me to get a better understanding of the landscape and all the contributions that Dean (Duane) Roen put in place. I understand that he's had great success with building a community, serving students, building out online programs and igniting new programs, basically. I need to get a sense of all that he's accomplished. I'd like to build on those successes of course, and then really optimize the way that CISA can be a connector. A couple of the features that really strike me — that I think really compelled me to apply for the job — are the uniqueness of CISA’s position across campuses. They're really important in terms of being a portal of entry for community college students and for accessing educational pathways for students coming from LA. So there's a lot happening that sounds like we can optimize it and really increase the impacts. The idea of many points of entry is really interesting. The ability to be a connector is really interesting across programs.
Q: What else was of interest to you at the college?
A: Another thing that was really of interest to me was the idea of them being a hub for experiential and applied learning. I see that as absolutely critical to President (Michael) Crow's vision of building out the economy here, in creating a workforce. So that was a big factor in my enthusiasm. They have a number of applied degree programs. So I'm very interested in finding ways to build those out to continue to maximize the impacts, and then also find ways for students to get internships that lead to jobs so they can have wonderful lives and contribute to the economy. So that's really exciting to me.
Top image: The next dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, Joanna Grabski. Photo courtesy Ryan Parra