About

The ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering is a leading transdisciplinary program in digital media spanning arts, design, sciences and engineering.

Home / About / History

History

The School of Arts, Media and Engineering, a collaboration between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, developed out of the Institute for Studies in the Arts. 

In 1989, Dean of the Herberger College of Fine Arts Seymour Rosen proposed the creation of the Institute for Studies in the Arts to update the way the arts were taught. He proposed a multidisciplinary arts unit to encourage faculty, students, visiting artists and technicians to create and explore new art forms and to research technologies and training methodologies that would enhance the arts professions. The institute would be responsible for examining critical issues in the arts and for establishing collaborative projects across several arts disciplines. The Arizona legislature approved the creation of the Institute for Studies in the Arts as a unit of the College of Fine Arts at ASU and the program held its inaugural performance in 1990.

In 1991, Richard Loveless took the helm of the Institute. Over the next decade, the Institute for Studies in the Arts supported more than 130 creative research projects and, as one of the leading arts research centers in North America, attracted an impressive number of exceptional visiting artists and scholars.

In response to the program’s 10-year review, Dean Robert Wills decided to explore the addition of research and graduate education to the Institute for Studies in the Arts’ mission. Thanassis Rikakis was hired in 2001 to lead the Institute for Studies in the Arts’ transition to an academic unit. In his 2002 inaugural address, ASU President Michael Crow identified as one of his top priorities the development of the Institute for Studies in the Arts into an interdisciplinary media arts and engineering program.

In 2004, the Arizona Board of Regents approved the transition of the Institute for Studies in the Arts into the Arts, Media and Engineering program. The program was established as a joint initiative of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. The Arts, Media and Engineering program quickly grew into its new mission and within five years established a transdisciplinary PhD in Media Arts and Sciences, jointly offered by the Herberger Institute and the Fulton Schools, and concentrations in 12 graduate degree programs across campus. The Arts, Media and Engineering program also received funding and support from a variety of federal and industry partners, including the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacArthur Foundation and Intel, as well as others.

The motione project was a crucial component at the time of inception of the program. A $150,000 NEA grant (2003) was awarded, at the time the largest NEA grant ASU had received. Not long after, a $1.4 million NSF CISE grant (2004) related to the project. Arts, Media and Engineering partnered with ASU Public Events to disseminate the results of the project.

With the support of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ dean at the time, Kwang-Wu Kim, and ASU Provost Elizabeth Phillips, the Arizona Board of Regents approved the creation of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering in 2009 to allow for the expansion of the school’s mission to undergraduate education. Since fall 2010, the school has led the Herberger Institute’s Digital Culture initiative. The curriculum encompasses course offerings in digital media from 15 units and multiple undergraduate degree offerings in Digital Culture.

Founding Director of Arts, Media and Engineering Thanassis Rikakis stepped down as director in July 2012 to work at Carnegie Mellon University, then later moved on to Virginia Tech to pursue teaching bioengineering and performing arts at Virginia Tech. In August 2012, the school welcomed Garth Paine, a professor with the School of Music and School of Arts, Media and Engineering, as interim director.

Shortly after the undergraduate program launched, the school expanded it's mission to undergraduate education by developing several individual areas of study for the Digital Culture (BA) program that included focuses such as but not limited to design, film, graphic information technologies, interdisciplinary arts and performance, media processing, and music.

In January 2014, the school welcomed a new director, Sha Xin Wei, who had trained in mathematics at Harvard and Stanford Universities and worked more than 12 years in the fields of scientific computation, mathematical modeling and the visualization of scientific data and geometric structures. Under Sha’s guidance the school developed an interest in incorporating more humanities and philosophy into its practices and classrooms. During this time, the School of Arts, Media and Engineering extended its program to include graduate level research. In 2014, the school opened a new masters in Digital Culture degree path – a counterpart to the Digital Culture undergraduate degree. Arts, Media and Engineering also saw an exponential growth and development in school-related initiatives and faculty-led research labs that provided a solid and engaging learning environment for the student body.

After Sha Xin Wei took a research leave of absence in July 2019, Pavan Turaga, professor in both the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, stepped in as interim director. Turaga's background is primarily but not exclusively in machine learning and computer vision. 

Under Turaga’s leadership, Arts, Media and Engineering put forward its first mission statement and promise to students. During this time, the school also welcomed electronic sport (E-sports) into its facilities to provide a space for ASU students to host e-sport competitions and events.