‘Dynamic’ and ‘forward-thinking’ leadership attracts new dean

Noted expert tapped to take arts and media innovation to new level

September 20, 2018

Baefsky at podium
Laurie Baefsky, who was involved in a national consensus study that concluded integration of the arts and humanities into STEM fields better prepared students for the workforce and for active citizenry, spreads the message across the country.

Although she’s a classical flutist, Laurie Baefsky, DMA, might be considered a rock star by some people on campus – especially if they’re fans of mixing violins and paintbrushes with test tubes and equations.

With more than $5.3 million in grants and numerous arts-integrated educational initiatives behind her, Baefsky is a noted leader in the effort of incorporating arts into research and education.

“We are extremely fortunate to welcome Dr. Baefsky to our campus,” said College of Arts & Media (CAM) Dean Laurence Kaptain, who tapped Baefsky for the newly created position of associate dean for research, collaboration and innovation this summer.

“She will grow creative programs that are unique to public higher education, putting our faculty, students and city at the forefront,” Kaptain said of Baefsky, formerly executive director of ArtsEngine and the international Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), both on the University of Michigan campus.

CAM Dean Kaptain
Dean Laurence Kaptain hired Laurie Baefsky to boost research and innovation in his College of Arts & Media.

Baefsky recently took a few minutes to chat with CU Denver Today.

Today: What attracted you to this job?

In 2016, the College of Arts & Media hosted the a2ru national conference on this campus, and that’s when the seed was planted. I saw what a dynamic university this is, and I thought how much fun it would be to be affiliated with it in a more direct way. Now, to have a position dedicated to innovation in the dean’s office is really forward-looking and very exciting and, I think, speaks to the relevance of “CU in the City.”

Today: What else lured you out West?

I’m from the West, so it’s wonderful to be back here. I’m a flute player, and I auditioned for the Colorado Symphony three times in my early career. And my whole family is on the West Coast (including her 93-year-old mother), and so it’s much easier for me to travel and spend time with them now.

Today: What are some of your chief goals in your new position?

To define research and creative practice for the College of Arts & Media, to create a research culture both for the students and the faculty, and to support that research as it spills out into the city and the creative economy through internships and fellowships. I see it as a huge goal to cultivate really diverse and interesting partnerships that bring opportunities for our students and faculty and to the city of Denver.

Baefsky Head Shot
Laurie Baefsky played flute and piccolo with the Virginia Symphony for 15 years.

Today: Do you think the Denver community will be conducive to those goals?

Absolutely. Look at CRUSH WALLS 2018 (Denver’s annual urban art festival that ran Sept. 3-9). Go down to the RiNo Art District, and drive down Larimer Street, and you’ve got dozens and dozens of murals on the walls. I would say that the arts have, along with the brewpubs, reactivated the RiNo district. So that’s one really micro-local example of how the arts can really foment creativity and connectivity in communities.

Today: Why are you so passionate about arts in research and education?

I think what the arts can bring us is what we need most in society today. Art unifies us as a culture. I believe that we are beyond the knowledge economy and are entering the human economy, and the most important things that we can teach our students reside in those things that the arts teach us (creativity, collaboration, dedication, confidence, focus, etc.).

Today: Of all the arts-integrated educational initiatives you have taken part in over the years, what one stands out?

Probably my most recent project with the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. It was a two-year consensus study looking at the integration of the arts and humanities into STEM fields, including medical education, at the undergraduate and graduate level. I’m happy to report that it found art to be a high-impact tool for educating, especially underserved students, and recommended integration.

“I think what the arts can bring us is what we need most in society today. Art unifies us as a culture.”

– Laurie Baefsky

Today: What do you like to do in your spare time besides play the flute?

I like to hike and to cross-country ski. I like to cook, engage in a good book and, of course, be a patron of the arts.

Today:  So do you think you came to the right place?

Definitely. I’m smitten with Colorado’s vibrant and growing creative economy. Meow Wolf is moving to Denver in 2019, bringing with it this very forward blend of arts, design, technology and immersive storytelling. We have a growing number of designated creative districts being established throughout the state, and the music industry here is booming. It’s a great time to be in Denver.