Every institution of higher education has its own mission; a singular statement of purpose that speaks to their raison d’être, or reason for existence. How they interpret that mission, and deliver their educational objectives to their students is what intrigues me. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, SAIC, follows their own path. And, as a consistently top-ranked art college they must be doing something right.
Here are some distinct, core characteristics that caught my eye:
- SAIC believes in exploration. That’s why their students don’t declare majors. They choose to focus their studies in one area or create their own concentration from among 18 intermingled departments. If graphic novels and critical studies are a passion, combine them here. If writing and fashion design is your preference, that’s possible too. Students are encouraged to stretch and experiment across disciplines. The sky’s the limit.
- Art is subjective. You know that, I know that, and so does SAIC. That’s why their students are graded on a credit/no credit basis. The college utilizes frequent critiques and portfolio development to help build independent, creative thinkers in its studio courses. A strict class attendance policy ensures focus and participation.
- Right from the start freshmen at SAIC jump in with both feet. The college’s rigorous program is comprised of 16.5 credit hours the first semester and 15 the second. Students gain an “overview of surface, space and time, and how they interplay and connect with each other in year-long Core Studies and Research Studies classes,” explained Andrea Tarry, Associate Director for Undergraduate Admissions. A complementary, one semester course, Wired, teaches students how to use their computers as artistic and design tools. Additional requirements are English First Year Seminar, Art History Survey, and a studio elective in a department of their choosing. “We want students to begin exploring their personal interests right away,” offered Alexander Zak, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Admissions.
- A new perspective is a good thing, and the school wants its students to see the world from different perspectives. So much so, that six credit hours of off-campus study are required for graduation. They could come in the form of a study abroad program, a co-op internship, a three-week study trip, or classes at another university. Inspiration is the goal here. Experiencing the world from varied vantage points will affect how you think, how you act, and how you create. Numerous scholarships are available to help pay for the experience.
SAIC offers vast resources to its students and alumni, and I’ve only skimmed the surface here. I hope to explore more in the future, but in the meantime I’d suggest you go exploring yourself. Visit the Windy City. Get inspired and see what this creative institution has to offer.