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December 08, 2005 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-12-08

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Art and Design junior Megumi Nishimura makes plastic body molds for the class Conspicuous Consumption: Food as Art Material in
the woodworking studio.

Making a change
Students, administration adjust to new
Art and Design School curriculum.
By A exandra Jones / Daily ArtsEditor

Continued from page 5B
not giving them any practical skills
whatsoever to go out and survive
and make a life."
"In the end, I feel like I came
out okay, but only because I fought,
like, the entire time," she explained.
"Everything I had to do was a fight;
it was a battle. However, you can
make it work."
The new constitution
The transition from one curricu-
lum to the other may not have gone
as smoothly as it should have. But
now that a few of the kinks have
been worked out, how do new-cur-
riculum students feel about the pro-
LSA and Art and Design junior
Mollie Bates has a unique perspec-
tive on the change. As a leader of the
University's chapter of the American
Institute of Graphic Arts, Bates has
had to deal with student concerns
about the curriculum. But she has
found a way to make it work for her
and provided resources to help other
"It's almost to the point with me
and others where it's like, 'The tran-
sition has been made, things are ok,'
" she said. While she agrees that
"the seniors got a little screwed and
the fifth-years definitely did," Bates
is realistic about the switch. "The
major changes that (groups like ASL
and SAS) were proposing to the cur-
riculum were not feasible. And the
deans ... have a purpose."
While Bates believes that the
administration has done a lot for
students, such as creating the senior
studios in which to work on their
IPs, she emphasized that personal
responsibility is what makes good
students in the new curriculum.
"You go to art school to learn how to
conceptualize, think big, be a leader
and have these awesome ideas," she
"The whole concept of this school
is you're on your own, make your
own way, figure it out for yourself.
You're an adult now; you're in con-
trol of your education; take care of
Art and Design senior Kevin Tud-
ball didn't realize that the change
had been made until he showed up
for school in September 2002. "I'm
not too disappointed ... I was able to
get where I needed to go."
He assessed the positives and
negatives of the curriculum change.
"With any change, there's going
to be that shakiness," he said of
the adjustments to the curriculum.
"There's always the crossover peri-
od. It's been kinda cool to be part
of the process of making it better,
and there's been frustrations, but
they're usually pretty easy to over-
come ... (The curriculum has) defi-
nitely made me better-rounded."
Art and Design freshman Devon
Russell went through two years in
LSA before transferring. He has
mixed feelings about the variety
of media that students are required

to sample as freshmen and sopho-
"It's pretty rigid, unfortunately.
There isn't a lot you can do, as far
as some of the other colleges go,"
he said. But "everybody should
have a pretty broad understanding
of art going into it, not to mention
the fact that having a bunch of dil-
ettantes once they graduate isn't a
bad thing...some of it's irritating,
because not everybody likes paint,
not everybody likes clay, so it's hard
because you don't get to always nec-
essarily play to your strengths," he
One student whose work reflects
many aspects of the new curricu-
lum is Art and Design senior Lauren
Hughes. She's combining skills she's
learned working with clay, paint and
design .during the twelve credits
she'll have this year to create her IP,
which will consist of religious art-
work on clay tiles and an accompa-
nying book.
Although six credits per semester
is a lot of-work, "I don't think (the
IP) has been too much." Still, she
admitted, "This is all I'm working
on ... It's taking up all my time."
Even if she and her class may have
been "guinea pigs" for the new cur-
riculum, Hughes has made the most
of it. "I liked taking all those dif-
ferent classes. I wanted to do that;
that's why I came here," she said.

Many students have had trouble adjusting to the new Art and Design curriculum, which

S omething changed on North Campus about four years
ago. At the beginning of the fall 2002 semester, the
incoming freshman class of 2006 entered a whole new
School of Art and Design.
Dean Bryan Rogers and Associate Dean Mary Schmidt had
come from Carnegie Mellon University two years before, and
with them, they brought plans to create more opportunities
and spaces for student exhibitions, attract better speakers for
the school's weekly lecture series and do more with alumni
donors to improve facilities and programs for students.
Sounds like a great idea, right?
But there was one more improvement that Rogers and
Schmidt wanted to make when they got to the University.
They had a plan, developed with the school's faculty over two
years, to revamp the school's curriculum and degree require-
ments. The new curriculum would introduce freshmen and
sophomores to the basics of a wide variety of media while they
learned to develop thematic ideas in their art. It would also
allow freedom for juniors and seniors to choose the classes
in the various disciplines they wanted. Above all, emphasize
conceptual development over rote learning practices - intel-
lectual exploration over set academic paths.
Students were to have the school's wide range of faculty
and facility resources at their disposal when they were young.
Later in the curriculum, after experience working with a
variety of media and developing their own conceptual ten-
dencies and ideas, they could take advantage of relative free-
dom and openness later. For each student, the program would
culminate in a year-long project - the Integrative Project,
which would be developed, created and completed over two
semesters of six-credit independent study during senior year.
A sizeable donation from alum Penny Stamps also created
individual studios for each senior to work on IPs in the Art
and Architecture building.
The change was to take effect with the new Art and Design

undergraduates entering the first semester of the 2002 school
year. After a four-year transitional period - after students
who had entered the school under the old curriculum had
graduated - the linear arrangement of courses into disci-
plines under the old curriculum would be a faint memory. The
fact that the school once offered majors within the Bachelor
of Fine Arts program would be nearly forgotten.
Rogers and Schmidt had both worked at Carnegie-Mellon,
when a similar change had occurred. Both anticipated prob-
lems; they thought that they were ready for the rocky transi-
tion that invariably comes with a change of this magnitude at
such a large, prestigious university.
But when the class of 2006 showed up to start the new cur-
riculum, the students who made up the classes of '03, '04, and
'05 - who were still following established programs from
the "old" curriculum - didn't just go away. Some of these
students were told that the switch wouldn't affect them nega-
tively, but time proved otherwise.
After a few years, some students under both the new and
the old curricula had problems with the transition. Younger
students who hadn't known about the curriculum change
when they applied hadn't anticipated the requirements of the
new program. Some saw the relative smattering of informa-
tion they received in the seven-week Tools, Materials and
Processes courses in media like metal, paint, clay and video
as pointless because the courses were too short and students
couldn't progress past a relatively basic skill level. Others pro-
tested the lack of choice presented in the new curriculum's
first four semesters.
Other students - those who were sophomores and juniors
when the new curriculum was put into effect - had prob-
lems, too. When courses that students had anticipated tak-
ing, courses that were part of specializations that students
were following - became scarce to make room for the new
curriculum's courses. And when these students brought what

seemed to be very practical problems to the administration,
many felt that the administration reassured them without tak-
ing steps to create solutions, or that their problems were flatly
But a lot of students did something about it: They trans-
ferred to other schools of the University or to other univer-
sities altogether. They banded together and formed groups
like the Art Students League and the Society of Art Students.
Others formed unofficial groups and attempted to contact
deans and other high-ranking University officials to make
their positions known. But even though the administration
made a few adjustments to work out unanticipated kinks in
the curriculum, some students felt their grievances and ideas
for improvements were ignored.
At the end of April 2006, the students who have been the
"guinea pigs" under the new curriculum will be the first class
to graduate under the new program. And while many of the
old curriculum students have already graduated, some of those
whom the change affected the most are fifth-year seniors,
often dual-degree students or students who transferred there
during or just before the change occurred.
Now that the transition is almost over and the new cur-
riculum will have been solidly instated, it's time to ask a few
The administration's take
Dean Bryan Rogers and Associate Dean Mary Schmidt had
a vision for the art school when they cane here from Carnegie
Mellon in 2000. The ideology behind many of the changes
and improvements the deans planned to make was based on a
combination of practicality and conceptual development.

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