What Makes A College Unique?

Class critiques

Class critiques

One of my main objectives with Art.College.Life. is to try to identify the nuances that differentiate one college art program from another. It’s not always easy. Variables such as size, location and specialty are the obvious standouts, but delving deeper and learning more about each program brings out the true distinctions.

The Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning Department (DAAP) at the University of Cincinnati (UC) has found its place. The department participates in the university’s cooperative program (Co-op) offering students a real glimpse into potential careers while they’re still students. In existence since 1906, Co-op has become a mandatory part of the design curriculum. Beginning sophomore year DAAP’s fashion design, graphic design, industrial design, and interior design students alternate between semesters spent attending classes and working full-time in a professional area of interest. Integrating the two gives students the opportunity to apply classroom lessons to real-world situations, and bring on-the-job issues and concerns back into the classroom for further analysis and discussion.

Workplace assignments take place throughout the U.S. and across the globe. The list of companies and organizations in which DAAP students have engaged is impressive, including Abercrombie and Fitch, Fisher-Price, the Smithsonian Institute, and Warner Brothers Pictures. And, the benefits are fantastic; theory and practice live side by side as students gain first-hand experience, develop broad networks, and gain confidence in their chosen fields. The added time spent away from school means students take five years to complete their degrees, including summers. If cost is a concern, consider that Co-op students earn a salary during their working semesters.

Classrooms

Classrooms

Fine Arts and Art History majors aren’t left behind. Students here don’t have a cooperative requirement; however they are highly encouraged to intern or study abroad.

So how does DAAP fit into the big University of Cincinnati picture? UC is a public, land-grant research university located on 473 acres in Cincinnati, just north of the Ohio River. Its 42,000+ students divide themselvesinto more than 300 programs across campus. DAAP provides an intimate, liberal arts education inside the larger university context. Roughly 2,000 students study 10 undergraduate majors in four aptly named schools; Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning. The Design school engages about half the department with majors in Fashion Design, Graphic Communication Design, and Industrial Design. Art is comprised of Fine Arts and Art History; Architecture includes its namesake and Interior Design. Design majors graduate with a Bachelor of Science. Fine Arts graduates receive a BFA after four years; Art History majors receive a B.A.

UC_logoAccolades for the university are numerous. “Among the top tier of the Best National Universities,” claimed U.S. News and World Report in September, 2012. And Travel & Leisure magazine listed it as “one of the world’s most beautiful campuses” in 2011. Hitting even closer to home, the 2013 Design Intelligence survey ranked DAAP’s Industrial Design best in the nation, and Interior Design second best.

The news gets better once you’re actually on campus. According to Amberly Maryo, Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, 93.3% of DAAP students entering as freshmen in 2012 returned to the university in 2013. That’s the highest retention rate on campus. Clearly they’re doing something right!

As a parent of two college students myself, I understand the anxiety that accompanies the transition from college to the “real world.” Any help bridging that looming gap will be readily appreciated and welcomed with open arms.

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Let’s Get Practical – The Real Value of an Art Degree

So mom and dad are a little anxious that you want to study art in college – let alone attend an art school. That’s understandable, especially in today’s job market. What kind of job can you get with a degree in painting – or any other art field for that matter? Thinking long term, what kind of career choices will you have? Will you earn enough to make a living? And how about paying back those pesky student loans?

Ceramic color tiles

Ceramic color tiles

First things first; when deciding to pursue an art education you need to realize that not everyone who studies art will be as successful as Ralph Lauren or Georgia O’Keefe. But the skills learned are transferable and invaluable.

Steven Tepper, Associate Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University and Research Director of the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) recently explained the growing need for artists in the workplace in Fast Company magazine. “It’s common today to debate the comparative merits and economic value of various college majors, but those of us who track issues and trends around the nation’s creative economy contend that much of the comparisons miss the mark in important and fundamental ways.” He continues, “no less a force in global business than IBM found that the most important skill for successfully navigating our increasingly complex, volatile, and uncertain world is none other than creativity.”

Art school outwardly teaches the creativity of art and design. Subliminally it instills problem solving skills, patience and determination, flexibility, collaboration, and a strong work ethic that lets you fail and begin again. All these skills are critical to become a successful artist, a valued employee and a trusted leader.

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman approached creativity from a different perspective in “Need a Job? Invent It.” His observation, and that of Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner, is that today’s and tomorrow’s job seekers will not only need to be creative in their search efforts but more than likely need to design their own jobs and career paths.

Creativity and innovation are at the heart of what every artist studies. And the idea of a starving artist probably isn’t going away soon. But the reality of an art education being the stepping stone to a growing and prosperous career is more plausible today than ever before.

What do I think? Well, it’s about time.