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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Winter 2006

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[Board accepted]

The Beat of a Different Drum: Using the Arts in Outreach to Science/Engineering Students and Faculty

Jeanne L. Pfander
Associate Librarian
Science-Engineering Team
University of Arizona Library
Tucson, Arizona

Barbara A. Williams
Assistant Librarian
Science-Engineering Team
University of Arizona Library
Tucson, Arizona


On October 23, 2005, two science librarians at the University of Arizona partnered with UA women faculty from science, engineering and women's studies disciplines and Odaiko Sonora taiko instructors to present a non-course related hands-on interactive Japanese drumming event for female science and engineering students. This paper outlines the process we used to plan the program, secure funding, and conduct the event. It also describes outcomes and plans for future activities.


According to the report "Balancing the Equation: Where are Women and Girls in Science, Engineering and Technology?" women make up 46% of the nation's workforce yet only 23% of those women are scientists and engineers (Thom 2001). One might conclude that women who choose to enter science and engineering disciplines already march to the beat of a different drum. Still, it is critical to encourage and support students who take this path. Thom's report indicates that the undergraduate experience is significant in whether or not female students continue in science and technology studies and careers.

The University of Arizona is committed to recruiting and retaining women in science and engineering disciplines. In 1976 the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program was established at the University of Arizona as part of the Women's Studies Department and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women. WISE works to motivate female students to enter careers in science, engineering, mathematics and technology and to support them in their studies. They provide this support by offering tutors, mentoring programs, scholarships, and student-faculty social events. The WISE program also sponsors outreach programs to middle and high school students and teachers (Department of Women's Studies, University of Arizona, WISE Home Page 2006).

Research has shown that informal student/faculty activities outside the classroom allow participants to interact in a more social setting. When students see faculty as approachable, caring individuals, boundaries disappear and opportunities for discussion about issues pertinent to their own lives are created (Lamport 1993; Kuh 2001). Informal interactions with faculty outside the classroom have been shown to have a positive impact on retention and persistence in students' academic careers (Jaasma 1999).

In August 2005, the authors became aware of a new funding opportunity available through the Student/Faculty Interaction Grants Program administered by the Dean of Students Office. The Alltel Funds for the Arts -- a small grant opportunity for UA faculty, students, and student organizations -- is intended to support student-faculty interaction and extended learning outside of the classroom. The funds can be used to attend or participate in any arts event on or off campus which includes but is not limited to theater, dance, photography, exhibits, films, and gallery showings.

Having previously worked with the WISE program, the authors decided to investigate the possibility of planning an arts-related event to bring female science and engineering students and faculty together for networking, learning and fun! Brainstorming different ideas for arts events or activities, the idea of an interactive, hands-on drumming program quickly rose to the top, in terms of excitement and energy. One of the authors had seen a performance of Japanese taiko drumming by a local group and suggested this might be something to investigate.


Taiko is Japanese for "great drum" (Wikipedia 2006). The word refers both to the drums themselves and to the art form which in the last approximately 50 years has been primarily performed ensemble. Traditional Japanese taiko range in size from one foot to six feet in diameter and are made of hollowed out tree trunks. In the United States, taiko are more commonly made from wine barrels (Odaiko Sonora 2006).

American Taiko groups have sprung up all over the country since this Japanese art form first came to this country in the 1960s. Although modern American taiko began in the Japanese-American community, many people who play taiko now do not have any Asian heritage. U.S. women have taken up taiko enthusiastically, with roughly 80% of taiko players in this country being women, as compared to 20% in Japan (Odaiko Sonora 2006).

The authors contacted Odaiko Sonora, the local taiko organization, and proposed contracting with them to conduct a workshop for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) students and faculty. The co-directors of Odaiko Sonora responded enthusiastically to the proposal. They had done previous programs for the University of Arizona's Center for Student Involvement & Leadership Annual Retreat. As they explained "Taiko is an ideal vehicle for teaching leadership and teamwork. The most effective leaders can clearly communicate their vision to others, and can inspire others to help them achieve this vision. Leaders must possess communication skills, empathy, and respect for others. In taiko, players must listen closely to each other to match rhythm and dynamics, and must communicate clearly about the rhythms they are playing in order for the end result to be satisfactory. To properly connect rhythms, students must make sure the whole group is engaged, involved, and participating. This experience builds communication skills, empathy, and awareness of others."

The Odaiko directors continued "Taiko is inherently a team-based activity. Taiko players in Japan do not speak of playing with a taiko group; they talk about being part of a taiko team...The experience of playing a rhythm in perfect unison, so the many drum voices come together as one drum, teaches the ability to work with others to achieve a common goal, the very definition of teamwork" (Hamner and Falkenstrom 2005).

Partners and Other Resources

The authors recognized that for the program to be successful it was necessary to partner with relevant faculty to plan the event. A planning committee was created consisting of the authors, the head of the Mining and Geological Engineering Department (who also is the Faculty Fellow for the Gila Residence Hall WISE Theme Wing), the WISE Program Coordinator, the Library's Women's Studies librarian, and an Academic Retention Specialist from the Office of Enrollment Management (who also is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies, specializing in Japan). The energy and enthusiasm of the planning committee members was positive and resulted in ideas and support that otherwise would probably not have been available.

Our proposal to Alltel/Dean of Students was partially funded so we requested and received additional funding from the deans of the four UA science and engineering colleges (Agriculture, Engineering, Optical Sciences, and Science), as well as the Library's Science-Engineering Team and the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program. The science and engineering deans recognized how our proposed activity was in alignment with the following learning outcomes that had been established by their colleges:

Recruiting Participants

To maximize opportunities for student/faculty interaction, the planning committee recruited five additional faculty women in science disciplines to participate in the event. This was accomplished by making e-mail contacts with faculty who had previously participated in WISE programs and also by looking through department faculty lists to identify additional women faculty. We attempted to balance out representation from the different colleges. Many more individuals who responded indicated interest in the program than were able to attend because of conflicts due to previous commitments. They urged us to contact them again when a similar event was being planned.

Recruiting students was accomplished by using a number of different methods:

The best results came from the contacts with students with whom we or the WISE program had previous relationships.

Conducting the Event

The event was scheduled on a Sunday afternoon. Students were picked up on campus and transported to the Odaiko Sonora studio. After an introduction by the authors welcoming participants and describing the goals of the program, the Odaiko Sonora instructors gave a brief history of taiko and performed a short taiko piece. The rest of the two-hour drumming workshop consisted of hands-on group drumming activities which taught the basics of taiko interspersed with circle dialogue sessions where questions such as the following were discussed:

After the drumming workshop, participants were returned to campus for a Japanese-themed dinner. The time in transit was also a valuable part of the program. The reporter who covered the event rode on the van and took the opportunity to interview participants to find out their reactions to the workshop and also the challenges facing WISE students majoring in fields that are typically male dominated.

Even so, in general the conversations in the van consisted of advice on which courses to stay away from and other practical academic matters focused on school or career-related information.

Before the catered dinner was served at a room in the Student Union, we conducted an origami craft exercise. This was a good way to continue the interactive nature of the program. Using differently colored pieces to make a beautiful object was another way of illustrating the value of diverse individuals in a team and the overlap between art and science.

As participants worked on the origami craft, faculty at each table were asked to "share their stories" -- how they became interested in their discipline and their paths to where they are today as women/scientists/engineers. This led to animated conversations at the dinner tables.

As the dinner came to an end, the authors brought the program to conclusion by reviewing the contents of a packet that each participant received. The WISE Program Coordinator presented information on WISE for those who were not familiar with the services they offer to support students academically. The librarians used this opportunity to share career opportunities available in the library profession as well as some important library resources available to them.


Participants were given an evaluation survey with 10 questions to fill out before they left the dinner. The survey assessed how well the goals for the event were met on a scale from 1-5 (where 1 is least favorable and 5 most favorable). Results showed that all of the goals were ranked at 4 or 5 by respondents. Comments included the following:

As program planners, the authors also did an informal assessment of how we thought the activity turned out. The only disappointing aspect of the event was the high level of "no shows" on the part of some students who had signed up to attend. Nevertheless, for those who did attend it was clear that it was an energizing, positive experience. We were pleased with the participation and enthusiasm of all of the attendees, both students and faculty. We also felt the partnerships with our planning committee and the funding sources were positive and rewarding, with potential for future collaborations.


The positive student learning experience is an attribute which various higher education ranking agencies attempt to codify and this outreach activity was developed with that in mind. In an informal setting the participants became aware of resources that are available to them. Most importantly, much of the dissemination of these resources came from peers in the form of stories that told how they had learned of the resource and how it was helpful to them. Also, the stories were shared as a result of the information being requested or because of a student mentioning the frustration in either finding information or assistance and another student's desire to share how they handled a similar situation.

We have continued to keep in touch with this group based on the mailing list that was generated around this event, and have used the list to inform participants of opportunities we think they might be interested in, such as an opportunity to participate in an information literacy research survey whereby students would be compensated for their involvement. A third of our participants participated in this research and expressed a desire to be informed of these types of opportunities in the future. We are very strategic in our use of this mailing list so that when participants see e-mail from us they are not hesitant about opening it.

Another positive outcome of this activity has been the positive publicity that the Library received. The Dean of Students Office and our faculty partners have new evidence of librarians as innovative contributors to the work of student learning and retention. In addition, the College deans are also now more aware of librarian contributions in the same arena. Finally, an article was published in the campus student paper, The Wildcat, which brought more general visibility to the outreach activities of librarians.

Next Steps / Future Activities

The authors plan to continue to work with the WISE program on informal faculty/student interaction events. Participation may be expanded to include more science librarians, perhaps working more closely with the Gila Residence Hall WISE Theme wing.

One opportunity which was identified as a result of planning and conducting this event was the identification of other potential partners, such as the Commuter Student Affairs office, which we may approach for future outreach collaborations.

As we planned the event and described the outcomes to our colleagues in the Library, many expressed interest in participating in a similar event and exploring the concepts of teamwork and leadership. We have decided to plan an expanded version of this program as a pre-conference for the Living the Future 6 Conference which is scheduled in April 2006 in Tucson, Arizona. (Visit the conference page at The pre-conference is titled "The Beat of a Different Drum: Leadership in a Collaborative Environment".


Outreach to non-course related student groups is both challenging and rewarding. It takes significant time and effort and works best when done in partnership with appropriate stakeholders and partners. Nevertheless, the potential for impact at the individual, personal level is great, especially when combined with a fun, hands-on activity such as taiko drumming.


Department of Women's Studies, University of Arizona. Women in Science and Engineering Home Page. [Online]. Available: {} [13 January 2006]

Hamner, R. and Falkenstrom, K. Personal Communication. September 20, 2005.

Jaasma, M. and Koper, R. 1999. Out-of-class communication between students and faculty: the relationship to instructor immediacy, trust, and control, and to student motivation. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Western States Communication Association (Vancouver, British Columbia, February 19-23, 1999). (ERIC document ED427380).

Lamport, M. 1993. Student-faculty informal interaction and the effect on college student outcomes: a review of the literature. Adolescence 28(112):971-990.

Odaiko Sonora. A Tucson Taiko Group Home Page. [Online]. Available: [13 January 2006].

Thom, M. 2001. Balancing the Equation: Where are Women and Girls in Science, Engineering and Technology? New York: National Council for Research on Women.

Wikipedia contributors. [Online]. Taiko. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available: [13 January 2006].

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