Spring Break Tours – Time To Get Started

Otis College of Art & Design

Otis College of Art & Design

Winter is hanging on, but warmer days will be here soon. Spring break means students can enjoy time away from classes. For moms and dads it offers an opportunity to explore college campuses with your teen.

So how do you start the “tour” process? Which campuses do you visit first? The answer is simpler than you think. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal here is to help your student begin to determine the best place for his or her future. That means your first objective is to help him differentiate one place from another. I like to begin by categorizing the size of each institution: small liberal arts college, large research university, art college.

Does your child like to feel part of a big crowd? Or do you think he needs a more intimate setting to fit in? The good news is there are options available at both ends of this spectrum, and many places in between.

At the suggestion of our high school’s college counselor (thank you Stephanie!), we took a road trip during my oldest son’s sophomore spring break. Our objective was to visit three different colleges, one small, one medium, and one large – kind of like Goldilocks. We also focused on different settings and ended up touring a large research university, a liberal arts college in a suburban setting, and a smaller college in the center of the city.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University

Our tours turned out to be great kick-starters for our college conversations at home, and helped us all begin to envision the best post-secondary environment for our teen. And, once he started narrowing down what he wanted, we then knew where our next campus tours would take place.

There is no substitute for walking around a college to get a true feel for campus life. But visiting numerous colleges can be time consuming and expensive. It’s best to tour when classes are in session, but that often conflicts with high school schedules. And visiting institutions across the country might seem like a waste of money, especially before applications have been submitted. For these reasons I’d make sure to check each campus’s website and take a virtual tour. Most, if not all, colleges offer them. They might even influence your next road trip.

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Design & Business: Moving in the Right Direction

I’m frustrated by the minimal attention given to the study of business in art schools across the country. It seems that too few schools value the mix of art and business. However, four programs that understand the benefits of intertwining the two caught my attention. Here’s the dirt I dug up on three of them:

CCAD - logoCCAD is undergoing a structural change in how they integrate business courses into their curriculum. Currently working from a professional practices model, students now gain business knowledge as it relates to their major – learning what it takes to be successful within that discipline. An example is Studio Professions for Fine Arts majors. It’s geared towards entrepreneurs, focusing on the business of making and selling art. Courses such as Professional Practice for Interior Designers, and Advertising Portfolio and Professional Practice follow a similar path.

The future looks quite different – and better from my perspective – as the school shifts to an institutional model where the curriculum will include key business courses. Business professionals have already joined the faculty, and individual classes in Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Business Law are now available as electives. As the school refocuses its educational model these five will become the rule, not the exception.

Vice President for Academic Affairs, Kevin Conlon, wants students to be prepared for careers as independent artists as well as careers outside of the creative community. To help integrate them into the larger marketplace, the school is on track to offer a “Business and Entrepreneurship” minor beginning in the fall of 2014.

logoOTIS has very few universal courses. “They’re very specific to the major,” stated Brooke Randolph, Assistant Dean of Admissions. “However, business and professional practice is built into everything we do here. Students aren’t entrenched in the theoretical; they’re engaged with practical creative challenges, producing work that prepares them for real jobs.”

When searching through their course listings I found proof to her statements, along with some very interesting requirements. Economics in the Product Market is required for all Product Design majors. The course is a survey of microeconomic principles like supply and demand, consumer preferences and costs – essential considerations to those creating new products. Toy Design majors are required to sign up for Business Practices, where they receive an overview of business strategy, economics, finance, and marketing, and then apply lessons learned to writing their own business plans.

A Professional Practice course is required for all Communication Arts majors, while those studying Digital Media acquire practical business concepts from accounting and personal finances to business communications and networking in Career Planning & Personal Management. Each course presents issues relevant to that particular marketplace, integrating business practices into the design process.

scad logoSCAD‘s mission states that the school “exists to prepare talented students for professional careers,” and I believe they do. At first I struggled to locate the business courses on their website, but I took advantage of the school’s online chat offering, and connected up with Joanna, an admissions representative, who pointed me in the right direction. The college follows the professional practice model, with a minimum of one business course associated with each discipline; some are required courses, and others are electives. An added benefit; some business classes are offered online.

Commercial Practices for Industrial Design, Business Practices for Photography, and Animation Professional Development are just a few of the courses I found for applied art majors. Fine artists will also get support and direction with the Illustration Self-Promotion course, Professional Practices for Fine Art Photography, and Fibers Portfolio Preparation.

And the kicker, SCAD offers a Business Management and Entrepreneurship minor, providing students with the fundamental lessons of art in the business world. Students not wanting to complete the full minor have a whole host of courses they can take individually.

CCAD, OTIS and SCAD provide a great representation of the varying type of business and professional practice courses available to art students. Each is serious about creating artists and designers who can successfully apply their crafts in the real world. I think they’re proof that we are moving in the right direction. Ringling College of Art & Design has taken it one step further. I’ll give you the low down next week.

Creating Working Artists

otis dot eduOTIS College of Art and Design is one of those small gems tucked into a corner of the thriving metropolis that is Los Angeles.  I visited the Elaine & Bram Goldsmith Campus last month, and basked in its creativity and warmth.  It’s a small campus – packed with vitality and vision.

An independent school of art and design, OTIS offers BFA degrees in eleven majors – with most classes taking place in the seven-story “cube,” the striking Kathleen Ahmanson Hall.  Initially built as the headquarters for IBM Aerospace in the early 1960’s the space has been completely renovated into working studios as classroom space.  The result: spacious, collaborative and noisy (in the good way) working environments.  Each floor is dedicated to a different department.  Artwork from the different disciplines lines the walls of each floor.  If you can’t remember which floor you’re on, just look at the wall art.  Seriously!  Upperclassmen have their own desks.

freshmen drawing class - large 2About 1200 attend the school – including grad students – which provides lots of opportunity for one-on-one time with professors.  Brooke Randolph, Assistant Dean of Admissions explained that students don’t need to declare a major until sophomore year.  In fact she said, “the first year here is dedicated to foundation classes, giving students the time and chance to explore.”  A Foundation Forward course is even available to help identify the right major.

The school’s nurturing emphasis is pervasive.  The First Year Experience (FYE) program kicks into full gear even before you step on campus.  With the goal of ensuring a fun and successful transition to college life, there are upper class peer mentors to guide you, “O” orientation week, and FYE experiences that extend into your classes.

Each major has its own distinct curriculum which could lead to an insular single-minded frame of reference.  Not possible; OTIS’s goal is to create working artists, and to give you a real-world education.  So, all students are required to take part in the Creative Action program, an integrated team-building experience where you’ll rely on the varied strengths of your peers in multiple majors to resolve problems for real institutions and businesses.  Experiences have included building a sensory garden for the Junior Blind with a xylophone wall of different sounds for each room, and a trip to China to help the world’s largest wooden toy company move to more sustainable materials.

Clearly, this is not a typical college in a number of ways.  Physically it occupies a large block in the hubbub of the city, near to beaches, the airport, and affluent west side communities.  Housing is provided for all first year students (freshmen or transfers) in a luxury apartment building a short 10-minute walk from campus. (Nice!)  A website offers resources for upper classmen to locate nearby apartments.  Parking is free and available for all students.

I have to say, my only frustration with OTIS was in trying to find information on their website.  But according to Brooke a new site is coming soon.

Want to learn more about the creative environment of Los Angeles and how it pertains to OTIS graduates?  Read OTIS’ 2012 Report on the Creative Economy.

Postscript: I won’t be blogging next week, but watch for a post I’m researching about the business aspects of being an artist.  Also, if there are any other specific topics you’d like to read about please let me know.

Summer Programs

English: The Art Academy of Cincinnati, locate...

The Art Academy of Cincinnati
(photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer  is a great time to relax, soak up some rays, and hang out with friends.  It’s also a great time to expand your artistic horizons through a pre-college summer institute or local art class.  Here’s a chance to hone your existing skills or test the waters to find out if art is the right path for you.  You’ll experiment with new media, build your portfolio, and make friends with the same focused interests.

Numerous summer programs exist across the country as commuter classes and residential institutes.  If you can afford it I’d suggest a residential institute at a school you’d like to attend.  Some offer credit, or even waive the portfolio requirement when you apply for their college program.

Residential institutes typically last from one to six weeks, and they give you the opportunity to live on campus and begin to get a taste for real college life.

While you’re searching, don’t forget to consider state schools, and those in your own backyard.  Classes near home could save you money and still introduce you to the world of college art.

Here’s a list to get you started:

OTIS, Los Angeles, California

California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California

Art Academy of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Pratt, Brooklyn, New York

and of course…

Paris College of Art, Paris, France

Tools You Can Use

English: The main building of the School of Vi...

School of Visual Arts, New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a new website exclusively devoted to college graduation rates.  College Completion, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is designed to provide comparative graduation results for institutions across the country.  Since I seldom find national rankings and listings that let me easily compare art schools, I was delighted to stumble across this site.

Organizationally, the site sorts schools as public, private, community colleges or for-profit institutions.  Data for individual institutions breaks out graduation rates by ethnicity and gender, identifies estimated spending per pupil, and also compares graduation rates, median SAT scores and student aid with a list of peer institutions.

The hiccups for those seeking information about art programs are two-fold.  First, if your intent is to include public schools in your comparison, you won’t be able to do it accurately here.  This site compares campuses as a whole.  The University of Michigan School of Art & Design is not broken out from general U of M statistics.  You’ll have to do that comparison manually, on your own.

The second hiccup is the site’s natural list of peer institutions.  It lists Monroe College and DeVry as top peers for The School of Visual Arts (SVA).  All three are private and for-profit institutions, but only SVA is known for its art program.  Also, the site doesn’t recognize all art schools; I couldn’t find Parsons.

Now comes the good news: the site does provide a custom field for comparing schools of your choice.  It took a little work to get my comparisons, but the process was pretty straight-forward.  I created a graph of six art schools in California.   Tools you can use - comparative chart - 6 california schools -lgThe result illustrates graduation rates for a 6-year and a 4-year period, the overall percentage of students who graduate, school spending per student, financial aid per student, and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants.  A very useful tool if you’re intention is an art school in California.

Why

So why should you care about graduation rates?  The bottom line answer is finances – the college’s and yours.  High graduation rates speak to the support you’ll feel as a student – academically, financially and in your private life.  Plus, they have a direct relation to your economic success.  College graduates are more likely to obtain a higher paying job and have financial security.  That bodes well for the community as a whole and for the future of the institution, since alumni usually support their alma mater in one way or another.   Knowing that art students frequently take longer than the traditional four years to graduate, the four and six year rates provide added information for budgetary planning.