A bridge to the future of education, well-being, and the arts
Our Why: The Center for Human Arts Innovation aims to create a more vibrant and equitable world by fostering innovation in education, the arts, and well-being.
Our What: Since the Center's launch in early 2021, our vision has been coming to life. We focus on:
- Innovations in Education: Creating new career pathways for educators and counselors, and supporting next-gen skills development in animation, game design, climate resilience, and STEM education
- Innovations in Health and Well-being: In a time of real need, our students and faculty are inventing new health and wellness programs could look like, especially in our world-class expressive arts therapy programs
- Innovations in the Arts: Pushing the boundaries of art on our campus, in our community, and in the virtual world
Our How: We’ve developed a suite of programs to foster and grow ventures on campus, including:
- The President’s Innovation Challenge, which funds and supports many of the new innovations spotlighted below.
- A new “Enterprise Zone” on our Doble campus that fosters learning by doing through on-campus partnerships with healthcare, education, and creative arts organizations.
- Dynamic, practical, and relevant professional education offerings designed by our deeply talented Lesley faculty
- New health and wellness programs for our students, staff, and local community and a vision for a future Wellness Center on the Doble Campus.
Spotlight: Innovations in Education
Children’s literature that promotes understanding of science and nature
In partnership with Mount Auburn Cemetery, Lesley University faculty uses urban ecological research to write scientifically accurate children’s books about local ecology and wildlife. The faculty and Lesley undergraduate students are co-writing and designing two pilot books that are focused on bats and pollinators living at the cemetery.
Climate resilience embedded across our programs
In collaboration with two PhD students in the Graduate School of Education–Steven Nutter and Sarah Howard—Professor Dr. Nicole Weber is working with faculty colleagues to deepen how we teach place-based climate resiliency and climate justice across our programs and schools.
This work culminated in a faculty and student convening in late 2021 to suggest ways to create a standard pedagogical toolkit for Lesley educators and students.
Bilingual Educator Leadership Network (BELN)
Associate Professor Dr. Laura Schall-Leckrone, along with Massachusetts educators Frances De Leon '21, Mary Guetching Phalante '21, and Amy Maldonado ‘22, are building a network that supports bilingual educator leadership. The BELN will work with bilingual leaders as a think tank, platform, and support for activism and advocacy based on current research.
Educator awareness of neurodiversity across five Caribbean nations
Associate Professor Dr. Amy Gooden and Assistant Professor Dr. Louise Michelle Vital collaborated with teachers and educational leaders in five Caribbean nations in developing inclusive practices for neurodiverse students diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and dyslexia.
This Caribbean Institute ran during Summer 2021 and was a partnership between Lesley University, the Authentic Caribbean Foundation, and the Offices of the Ambassador to the United States of St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Jamaica Teacher’s Association.
- Scaling best practices in STEAM Learning
Spotlight: Innovations in Health and Well-Being
Weekly Expression Series
Expressive Therapies students Lexi Ugelow ’24 and Sophie McConkie ’24 are creating a student-led series of weekly expressive arts workshops. Drawing from Lesley’s world-class expressive therapies programs in art, movement, music, dance, and drama, the series will be free to students and the local community.
Countering the Stress Response in 90 Seconds
Doctoral student Nicholas Suchecki (entering cohort of 2021) is writing a book of mini-meditations to be distributed across campus as a free, accessible wellness resource. Each mini-meditation is designed to elicit the relaxation response, and to serve as a new focus point to ride out the 90-second stress cycle, thereby decreasing the likelihood the stress cycle will start again. Each meditation will include a reference to research evidence and literature documenting the positive health effects of that particular intervention.
A new Wellness Center on the Doble Campus
More details coming soon.
Professional training in Arts and Health
Professor Mitchell Kossak, Professor Vivien Marcow-Speiser, Professor Raquel Stephenson, and Associate Professor Rebecca Zarate will be offering a series of workshops and webinars exploring the efficacy of the arts in pain management, stress reduction, resilience, embodied storytelling, and mindfulness as treatments for abuse, trauma, and post-traumatic stress.
- "Geek therapy"
Campus champions of health and wellness
Lesley’s Undergraduate Student Health Services team (Dr. Ayse Atasoylu, Registered Nurse Susan Mello, and Nurse Practitioner Victoria Evans) are training a group of students to become "Champions of Wellness." Drawing from the principles of Lifestyle Medicine, and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Wellness Champions will receive weekly training in domains including physical activity, mindfulness, nutrition, substance use, sleep, stress reduction, and social connection.
Design charette tackling a “wicked problem” facing the community
Professor Heather Shaw and Shalini Prasad will be hosting an intensive, multi-disciplinary workshop to develop a design or vision for a problem space identified by a local organization or institution. Students’ goals will be to produce prototyped solutions to the proposed challenge over one and a half days.
Spotlight: Innovation in the Arts
College of Art and Design Assistant Professor Michael Annear is working to include a production studio on the Doble campus. This new studio would employ professional alumni animators and undergraduate interns to collaborate with professional partners to produce content for real-world, film, VFX, and animation projects
The next step is to identify studio partners and build a consistent project pipeline for students, faculty, and alumni.
- Virtual Animation Certificate Programs
Art Everywhere: Showcasing alumni and student art all over Lesley’s campus and beyond
MFA in Visual Arts graduates Deborah Read Balguedouz ’21 and Tracy Hayes ’21 launched a project to install alumni art across campus. Framed as an "act of radical generosity," this project seeks to create vibrant, visually rich spaces for our Lesley community while also giving new, aspiring alumni artists opportunities to display their work in high-quality public settings.
In addition, we are drafting policies and procedures to systematize ways to frequently rotate featured artists in spaces with high visibility and foot traffic.
Virtual 3D Prototypes of Campus Spaces
Professor Derek Hoffend, Associate Professor Keo Heng, and Professor Curvin Huber are working to create 3D virtual renderings of some campus spaces as a proof of concept. Future renderings could be used by our students in art and design programs, virtual exhibition spaces, and countless other creative applications.
Creative Writing Literary Journal
A new literary journal, with contributions from students and alumni of our Creative Writing MFA programs, aims to engage readers from all walks of life and writers who are both new and emerging as well as established. It will seek to broaden the range of literary voices that are heard, and publish a wide range of prose, poetry, and text-based art. This initiative is being led by Interim Associate Director Janet Pocorobba, and MFA alumni Genesis Lauu and Ona Anosike.
Dr. Jonathan "JP" Paul is the Executive Director for the Center for Human Arts Innovation, whose mission is to foster a Lesley University community at the forefront of inclusive transformation in education, the arts, and well-being.
Before joining Lesley, JP served as vice provost of academic programs at Relay Graduate School of Education, one of the country's largest Graduate Schools of Education for Black and Latinx teachers. He is on the Harvard Institutes of Higher Education faculty, where he leads cohorts of executive education courses in strategic planning and financial sustainability.