Illuminations Program Promoting Interdisciplinary Thinking

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UCI’s Illuminations program has provided a convenient avenue for students of all majors to experience the creative arts. For students heavily immersed in the sciences, like me, having a meaningful experience with the humanities is nearly impossible, because most of my class time is spent crunching numbers or understanding scientific terms. In short, I seldom have time during the school week to explore the arts, much less fully appreciate the humanities. Therefore, the many events that UCI’s Illuminations hosts often allow me to explore a field I am not familiar with and form an interdisciplinary approach to how I perceive the arts.

When I attended my first play hosted by Claire Trevor School of Arts titled “The Iliad: Menin (Rage),” I was not excited at all. I simply wanted to get extra credit for an English class and had very low expectations for how the play would pan out. In truth, my lack of enthusiasm for the play, and in particular for the arts, came from an illogical belief that I could not possibly understand abstract concepts amongst creative arts enthusiasts. “I am a science lover. How can I appreciate the arts?” I often told myself. And yet, I was uniquely surprised by this play. Not only were the actors amazing, but the sound effects, storyline, and even the lighting presented a way of expression I had never seen before. I left the play wondering how the main characters emulated certain psychological concepts I had learned in my psychology classes and if there was a scientific basis for why the lights were dimmed or brightened.

I became keen on attending as many plays and dances hosted by Illuminations as possible. It was exciting to link what I had learned in my science classes to what I saw on stage. Each play, dance, or discussion opened my eyes to the interdisciplinary approach a scientist can take when evaluating the arts. I slowly but surely began reading the western canon, such as the “Odyssey” and “The Prince and the Pauper,” on my own accord, and now I can say with certainty that I truly enjoy the humanities. Although at first I believed the Illuminations program was a way for English professors to force students to swallow the creative arts, I soon realized through attending events that the world of the humanities is much more intricate and interesting than what meets the eye, and it is certainly worth exploring.

Sharmin Shanur is a first-year cognitive sciences major. She can be reached at sshanur@uci.edu.

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