Michigan Proud

In Ohio, it’s known as that “school up north.” You know, the one that shall not be named. Blame it on superstition and a decades-old rivalry.

Stamps logoThe reality is that the University of Michigan (UofM) deserves more than just a mention. It’s one of the best higher education institutions in the country. An outstanding comprehensive public research university, it is always near the top in comparative college rankings. It has a unique visual arts program, provides a global focus, an active student life, and is set in a charming college-town, in a beautiful part of the country. Oh yeah, and they have this Big 10 football team.

UofM is a big place: 27,000 undergraduate students big. All that prestige and size provide excellent resources for the intimate Penny Stamps School of Art & Design (Stamps); 550 undergraduates intimate.

Lithography demonstration

Lithography demonstration

Stamps students earn a BFA or a BA in art and design, not in any individual area. The school’s interdisciplinary approach is based in the studio and is designed to educate students across mediums, preparing them for careers that will require knowledge across disciplines. Stamps exposes them to the bridges between those mediums and gives them the freedom to shift their focus along the way.

Another distinguishing feature is the university’s dedication to creating citizens of the world. Program requirements include time spent studying abroad and a semester engaging with communities other than their own. The latter can manifest itself in a number of ways including teaching art to elementary school children in Detroit, working with veterans or working with chronically ill individuals.

The school maintains a strong focus on careers as well, engaging every freshman from the first semester through senior year. Support services help with resume building, interview skills, internship guidance and more, all while communicating that a successful career is each individual’s responsibility.

Students inspired to learn something new should apply. Stamps is seeking independent thinkers who are open to new ideas and ready to integrate their expanding view of the world into their creative futures. If that’s your son or daughter, I highly suggest you give this school a good, long look.

College Tour: Art Center College of Design

In early April, I toured the Art Center College of Design in California. Set in a single modernist Ellwood-designed building that spans a ravine in the hills of Pasadena, the aptly named Hillside Campus is a visual study in contrasts. Harsh steel and glass are surrounded by eucalyptus trees and fragrant sweet jasmine.

Art Center walkway 2

Ellwood Building Walkway

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into this selective school, often ranked at the top of many college search lists. The reward for getting in is hard work and readiness for the real world.

As one admissions representative said, “you’ll never work as hard in industry as you do here.” Kit Baron, Senior Vice President of Admissions explained the reasoning behind the schools demanding curriculum and structure, tying it to the college’s core mission. Art Center “was founded not as an atelier but for industry, to listen to what client’s want,” she said. Translation: the school educates and helps students transition into the job world.

An example of the school’s strength is their Transportation Design program, which is constantly ranked #1 internationally. That stellar rating is reflected in the fact that every major automotive manufacturer has had an Art Center alum as a design chief or leader. Think about that; every major automotive manufacturer.

Class time

Beyond transportation, Art Center has 10 other undergraduate programs leading to BFA or BS degrees. Students are guided and challenged by approximately 400 faculty members, most of whom are also working artists. Classes are taught on the semester – or term – system, with three terms per year. A completed degree is based on eight terms, which means that students can graduate in fewer than three years. Most don’t though, typically taking 4–6 years to complete their education. There is no foundation year here, meaning students must be focused when they begin, but they’ll get to spend more time dedicated to their majors.

The smartly and strategically structured Illustration Department is the largest on campus. Five tracks exist within the department, directing students towards entertainment arts, motion, design, fine arts, or surface design. Each has a unique focus, requiring a different set of skills to work in their respective industries.

One of the hottest new majors trending across the country right now is Interaction Design, and Art Center has it. New due to our tech-focused world, it’s the study of apps and interfaces.

model shop projects 2

End-of-year model shop projects

Beyond the Ellwood building and adjacent Sinclair Pavilion for relaxation, there isn’t much else to this campus, reinforcing the focus on creating art. Students live down the hill, in off-campus apartments. A short drive away is South Campus, where Fine Art and Illustration students study, alongside graduate and community programs. The school’s long-range plan includes building dorms there in three years.

Art Center is not for the indecisive or inexperienced. Applicants already have a defined proficiency and a sense of direction. Prospective students apply directly into a major. The college accepts students on a rolling basis with just a few admissions deadlines.

More art.college.life. news can be found on facebook, twitter, and pinterest.

The Value of a College Tour

University of Michigan

Tour season is here. The snow has finally melted and families are eager to get outside, outside to explore campuses without all that snow. Colleges feel the same anticipation. Warmer weather brings spring flowers and students engaged in outdoor activities, resulting in picturesque scenes just as recruitment season kicks into gear for next year’s freshmen.

Those of you who regularly read my posts know what a strong proponent I am of touring colleges. Researching various programs and talking with admissions representatives are essential initial steps in the search process. However, they need to be followed up by a campus visit to determine if the fit is right. Nothing compares to setting foot on concrete and brick covered pathways, and through dorm and classroom building hallways.

Keeping that in mind, we all know that the costs associated with touring every campus your teen wants to explore can become exorbitant. Blame it on the Internet and the Common App; the times we live in encourage students to apply to numerous institutions. And often times, they seem to be scattered across the country.

College admissions personnel understand your predicament. That’s one of the reasons why more and more of them provide virtual tours through their websites. The tours are great tools, offering a realistic glimpse of campus.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 7.47.07 PMSCAD is striding even further down the path of virtual tours. They’re ahead of other colleges, but I’m sure that will soon change. The school now offers a virtual reality (VR) system to prospective students. They manufactured cardboard VR headsets which when hooked up to your cell phone provide an in-depth virtual tour from your own living room. Does your son want to attend SCAD’s campus in Hong Kong or LaCoste, France? No problem. Assemble your VR kit, hook it up and you’re there. It’s smart and cool.

I’m convinced this application will only expand in use among higher education institutions. It makes sense. Easing family stress during the college search process while enticing prospective students is a win-win. But please don’t let it replace a real visit if you can. VR tours are almost like being there.

While they do provide a realistic preview, VR tours – in any form – don’t provide the chance to interact with students in the hallways, to taste cafeteria food, and to actually feel that the campus culture and vibe is the right one for your teen.

My recommendation; traveling to college campuses during the early part of your search can be a valuable tool that helps your family understand the varied types of college campuses to choose from. Then, when its time to really make a decision, it can be the exclamation point on their search.

Want to learn more about the different types of campuses? I’ll address it in my next post. In the meantime, make sure to follow Art.College.Life. on facebook and twitter for all the latest news.

California College of the Arts: An Easy Choice

Graphic DesignIf finding the best college fit is all about options and decisions, then California College of the Arts (CCA) is sitting pretty. Why? Simply put, the location, history, and course offerings of this small arts college combine to create a wide-ranging combination of options without the need for much compromise.

Let’s start with location. CCA resides where the open-minded and creative culture that defines northern California slams head-on into our hi-tech future. Twitter, Pinterest, Adobe, Pixar, and Intel are just a few neighbors that the college draws from for educational inspiration and contributes to, in the form of future employees.

Two seemingly opposite campuses in Oakland and San Francisco actually complement each other by fusing their two aesthetics. The historic Oakland site is where CCA began more than 100 years ago. The Arts & Crafts movement is readily apparent in this lush, residential-style and almost camp-like setting, which is also home base for the school’s First Year Program and freshmen housing.

Oakland campus

Oakland campus

Fittingly, it’s also home to the more traditional and craft-focused programs of ceramics, printmaking, photography, textiles, glass, jewelry, and sculpture. The San Francisco campus is the urban pair of this duo. The culture and tempo here fit its industrial and mixed-use setting, footsteps from the University of California’s biomedical research campus and the Dogpatch neighborhood that is bursting with artisan studios.

Major offerings here include painting and drawing, and the design-focused programs of architecture and interior design, graphic design, industrial design, and furniture design. Students decide their major by the beginning of sophomore year, giving upperclassmen the chance to live on either side of the bay. The college shuttle provides an easy connection between the two.

The depth and breadth of course offerings are front and center in the San Francisco campus main building. The “nave” of this light-filled former Greyhound bus terminal acts as display and critique center for class projects, constantly changing throughout the year. More importantly, it’s a hub of activity and cross-pollination for the college’s 22 undergraduate and 13 graduate majors, providing fodder for the stimulating interdisciplinary and exploratory vibe here.

Critique in the Nave

Critique in the Nave

David Asari, Assistant Chair for Graphic Design, explained that CCA’ers learn how to figure things out. The institution’s must be present to win attitude inspires “students to take responsibility and ownership, and give back to others,” he said. Student critiques are just one way “they develop the thinking and confidence skills to run the show in a few years.”

Due to its long-standing reputation, CCA has developed some top-ranked programs, each attracting faculty that are leaders in their respective fields. A few to check out include the internationally known ceramics program and the fashion design program, which was recently ranked as one of the best in the world. One of the campus’ newest programs is Interaction Design. It doesn’t focus on the form and material of Industrial Design, but rather on how people interact with objects. Think smartphones, apps, TV, etc.

Delve into CCA’s excellent website to learn more. Better yet, go visit. Make a day of it to ensure you see both campuses. It’ll be worth your time. They are making a difference and changing lives here. It’s all in their tag line: Make Art That Matters.

Interested in researching a specific college or program? Let me be of help. In the meantime make sure to catch all the latest Art.College.Life. news on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.