SNAAP grew out of the Surdna Foundation’s response to needs articulated by arts training institutions across the country. Significant milestones in the project’s evolution have included the following

Early Indicators of Need

Beginning in 2002, more than 25 of Surdna’s arts training grantees individually approached Surdna for help in gathering information about their alumni. A critical mass of interest appeared to be forming, but of the few who had taken initial steps, surveys were weak, and organizational capacity to analyze and act on the results was lacking.

Preliminary Research

Following up, Surdna surveyed its arts grantees in 2003 to better understand the nature and scope of alumni tracking needs. An analysis of over 80 surveys revealed that across all institutional types and artistic disciplines there was strong interest in alumni tracking, driven by programmatic, institutional and advocacy concerns. The surveys also highlighted obstacles – lack of technical expertise, insufficient staffing and inadequate financial resources. The findings suggested that economies of scale could be achieved through collaborative survey development.

Confirming Data

Concurrently, at annual meetings of the Duke/Surdna Talented Students in the Arts Initiative (TSAI) issues of alumni tracking became an increasingly prominent focus of discussion and action. At the request of grantees, expert speakers were brought in to share knowledge about best practices (spring 2004). Soon thereafter, a subgroup of TSAI participants formed to further explore the issue.

The Working Group

A working group of 20 Surdna grantees (TSAI participants and others) began intensive work on survey development in fall 2004, joined by Steven Tepper, an arts policy researcher (then Deputy Director of the Princeton University Center for Cultural Policy and now the Associate Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University). Two pilot surveys were developed and tested during 2005: one for arts high schools and arts colleges/ conservatories; and a second for after-school and intensive summer institutes. Subsequently, Surdna and colleagues determined to include only the survey for arts high schools and arts colleges and conservatories in the project’s launch.

Field Input

From 2005 to 2006, through focus groups and ongoing discussions, an increasing number of field leaders, researchers and arts training institutions and their alumni voiced interest in the survey and the potential impact it could have on the quality of future training. Over 170 alumni and their organizations tested survey questions for content and style and provided feedback on other issues. This R & D phase revealed that data collection could best be done online, increasing the potential to create a field-wide system. Consultants with relevant technical expertise joined the working group and began the design of prototypes. August Development Corporation created the initial technical capacity for SNAAP – confirming that the online system could work as envisioned.

Planning for Launch

In early 2007, the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning team was engaged by the Surdna Foundation to assess market demand and resources, and develop a business plan for SNAAP’s launch. Its work has included objective testing of market interest; exploring start-up requirements through research on similar large-scale survey systems; identifying potential hosting or survey administering organizations (SAOs); and development of a business plan.

Leadership Team

In late 2007, the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research became the survey administering organization, with its key partner, the Vanderbilt University Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy. Staff was hired, and a National Advisory Board was appointed.


In February 2008, the Surdna Foundation granted $2.5 million over five years to Indiana University for SNAAP. This transformative award, at the time the largest grant ever made by Surdna, established SNAAP at the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research where it remained until 2021.

The Houston Endowment awarded a three-year grant of $600,000 in 2008.

The Barr Foundation of Boston committed a three-year grant of $450,000 in 2008.

From 2009 to 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts, awarded Indiana University four consecutive grants for a total of $280,000 to support SNAAP. These grants were made possible by the Arts Education Program.

The Cleveland Foundation awarded a two-year grant of $100,000 in 2008. 

The Educational Foundation of America gave a two-year grant of $100,000 in 2009.

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded Indiana University a research grant of $20,000 in 2014 to collect and analyze data about the career aspirations and skill sets of graduating college seniors. This special module is administered by the National Survey of Student Engagement, the largest undergraduate student experience survey in the United States.

Surdna Foundation awarded SNAAP a grant of $40,000 in 2017 to support strategic planning efforts.

From 2015 – 2020, the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation (EHTF) awarded four grants to SNAAP totaling $80,000. These included support for the Career Skills and Entrepreneurship survey module (2015 – 2017) and operating support to prepare for the 2022 survey. 

From 2022 — 2023, the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation (EHTF) awards a two-year grant to SNAAP totaling $100,000 to support operating expenses related to the 2022 survey.

In 2020, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a three-year grant of $650,000 to Arts + Design Alumni Research to administer the 2022 SNAAP survey.

A group of dancers suspended midair

Image Credit: The Juilliard School

Field Tests

2008 Field Test

Forty institutions participated in the first field test in 2008, and over 1,700 arts alumni completed the online questionnaire for an average response rate of 18%.

2009 Field Test

Nearly 4,000 arts graduates from 54 institutions responded to the 2009 SNAAP survey for an average response rate of 25%.

2010 Field Test

In the third and final field test, over 13,000 arts alumni from 154 institutions responded to the survey for an average response rate of 24%.

A Successful Launch

SNAAP 2011

Following three years of field testing, SNAAP successfully launched its first national administration in 2011-12. For the first time, alumni of all ages were surveyed and over 36,000 arts alumni from 66 institutions in the United States and Canada responded in fall 2011. The average institutional response rate was more than 20%. Participating institutions received their confidential data in April 2012, and SNAAP issued its second annual report of national findings.

SNAAP 2012

SNAAP’s second administration took place in fall 2012 and included 70 participating institutions. SNAAP issued its third annual report of national findings, A Diverse Palette: What Arts Graduates Say About Their Education and Careers” and another Special Report funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Painting with Broader Strokes: Reassessing the Value of an Arts Degree.”

SNAAP 2013

With the third administration, SNAAP achieved over 100,000 total alumni responses from 286 institutions since its inception in 2008. SNAAP 2013 marked the first time that institutions were able to compare their own majors to equivalent majors from other institutions. Also in 2013, the first 3 Million Stories conference took place at Vanderbilt University and SNAAP issued its fourth annual report, An Uneven Canvas: Inequalities in Artistic Training and Careers.”


SNAAP 2015

A new three-year cycle of SNAAP surveying began in 2015 with the introduction of SNAAP 2.0, offering a revised core questionnaire, two topical module, data visualization reports, and a choice of participation levels for institutions – a three-year SNAAP+ membership or the traditional one-year SNAAP. Over 40,000 arts alumni responded to the survey, the largest group ever.

SNAAP 2016

The second 3 Million Stories conference took place March 3 – 5 at Arizona State University with over 300 attendees. The second year of the three-year survey cycle realized over 25,000 survey respondents. The 2016 Annual Report focused on Institutional Connections, Resources, and Working Across Disciplines: What Arts Alumni Are Saying.”

SNAAP 2017

A SNAAP Special Report was published in the first quarter of the year, analyzing the Survey and Career Development Module. The 2017 Annual Report reported on Arts Alumni in their Communities.” The third year of the survey cycle brought the grand total of respondents for the three-year survey administration to over 80,000. Institutional participants for the three years included 108 undergraduate schools, 85 graduate programs, and 9 arts high schools. Aggregate Reports for all three years of data can be found in the Reports section of this web site; one includes data for only Recent Graduates, and the other for All Graduates.

SNAAP 2018

Following a year of strategic planning, the SNAAP National Advisory Board announced plans to become a fiduciary board. Arts + Design Alumni Research, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is incorporated in the state of Texas. The SNAAP board of directors is formed. SNAAP’s director retires from leading the organization full-time but remains as a consulting director through 2021.

SNAAP 2019 & 2020

While planning for the next survey to take place in 2022, SNAAP focuses on creating research from the existing database. DataBriefs and reports are published, and two rounds of SNAAP research fellows are announced.

SNAAP 2021

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation makes a grant to support the 2022 survey and SNAAP’s new executive director is hired. The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign are named SNAAP’s new sponsoring institutions. The SNAAP Research Symposium takes place in October.

Students in the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana band perform at a college celebration

Image Credit: University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana


Responding to New Needs for Insights

SNAAP was created to respond to the need for clear and reliable data, articulated by arts training institutions almost 20 years ago. At this time, SNAAP is again taking action to respond to the forward-looking information needs of the arts in higher education. To best support the use of SNAAP by the higher education field, arts professionals, policymakers and researchers, SNAAP has gathered and critically reflected on input from higher education leaders, arts faculty and research scholars to inform how it can best build on the strengths of its first decade and best serve the arts in higher education field in the new decade.

SNAAP will offer key updates to the design and administration of the 2022 survey, including:

  • A more inclusive, expanded survey administration. The 2022 survey will include more robust recruitment of a greater diversity of arts schools and alumni.
  • Emphasis on national findings. With a new emphasis on expanding participation, the 2022 SNAAP survey will provide a clearer picture of the systemic forces that impact the lives and careers of artists and better institutional benchmarking.
  • Impact of Covid-19 on arts alumni. The 2022 SNAAP will explore the enormous and likely lasting disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has created in the lives and careers of artists and creatives providing data-driven insights on how schools can prepare future artists.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion. The 2022 survey will survey a more diverse pool of alumni respondents with demographic questions attending to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and ability/disability as well as alumni perceptions of belonging and inclusion.