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University of Iowa News Release

March 22, 2006

New UI Center To Focus On Ethnicity And The Arts

The University of Iowa will lead the way in supporting research and public programs on the role of the arts in American ethnic and minority populations by establishing a new Center for Ethnic Studies and the Arts. Housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of American Studies and directed by Lauren Rabinovitz, professor and chair of American studies, the center will focus on the roles that ethnic identification have played in the history of American creative expression

The research center will be the first to focus solely on creative expression as a specific important cultural component of ethnic communities and their heritage. It will draw on the UI's distinctive strengths in the arts and position Iowa as a national and international leader in this area of scholarship.

"Since we are a non-urban university with fewer community ethnic cultural centers than are typically located in big cities, this center is vital for a coordinated effort with the college's academic programs at developing and making visible our strong, central role as Iowa's premiere cultural institution for fostering diversity," Rabinovitz said.

Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the new center will draw on the strengths of a number of the college's existing programs.

"I am pleased to help launch this innovative and collaborative effort that will bring faculty and students from our vibrant arts programs together with those in ethnic studies including African-American studies, Asian-American studies, American Indian and Native studies and Latin American studies, just to name a few," she said.

Rabinovitz said she expects the center to support faculty research about the traditions and practices of diverse ethnic and racial minority communities' artistic production through lectures, symposia, and seminars. She also hopes the center's activities will encourage faculty to develop these threads in their research and teaching even when they have not previously. "In sum," she said, "the center has the potential to be a catalyst for focusing more awareness about ethnic studies to all faculty and students."

Ethnic studies is a new, developing area in academics that has developed in part out of efforts to encourage understanding of diversity as part of a liberal arts education and to redefine American citizenship within the context of a multicultural nation. At the UI, ethnic studies is one of three tracks in the undergraduate American studies major, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which also supports programs in African-American studies, in American Indian and Native studies, and in Latin American studies, has committed itself to leadership this area. The new research center on Ethnic Studies and the Arts will enhance these efforts, Maxson said.

The Center is being supported by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Graduate College, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of the Vice President for Research. An advisory board composed of faculty from different departments and programs will be named later this semester.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,

PROGRAM CONTACT: Lauren Rabinovitz, 319-335-0320,