The University of Michigan offers students various opportunities to travel internationally during their time as undergraduates, including in the form of study abroad programs. While study abroad is an option for most U-M students, it is a requirement for students in the School of Art & Design.
The Art & Design School announced in 2010 that starting in 2014, students would have to engage in an “International Experience” in order to graduate. This requirement was waived for students graduating from 2020 to 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though these students had to take two additional classes to substitute the International Experience — ARTDES 434: Global Studio and BA 310: Business + Culture. But now the study abroad requirement is back in place, meaning the winter 2024 graduating class is the first cohort of Art & Design students who have been required to complete a study abroad program or on-campus equivalency since the start of the pandemic.
In an email sent to all Art & Design students on Oct. 27 and obtained by The Michigan Daily, Sandra Wiley, director of international study programs for the Art & Design School, wrote that the two substitute classes will not be offered in the winter 2024 semester and that the Art & Design School is seeking student feedback to generate alternatives to the requirement.
Veronica Falandino, assistant dean for admissions and student services at the Art & Design School, told The Daily the classes may return in the future as elective options and are currently being reviewed by Art & Design faculty.
“The instructor for that class is really taking this point in time to reflect and revisit the partnerships that drive that particular class,” Falandino said.
In an email to The Daily, Jennifer Hogan, director of communications and marketing for the Art & Design School, wrote that the School is looking to expand study abroad options for Art & Design students to include programs sponsored by the Center for Global and Intercultural Studies. CGIS offers over 120 programs in more than 45 different countries, with the majority of program participants being from the School of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
“In addition to STAMPS-sponsored programs, students (would be able to do) select from CGIS-sponsored programs,” Hogan wrote. “Even more options are under consideration and announced to students when they become available.”
Art & Design senior Santana Malnaik studied abroad in Paris on a CGIS program for her Political Science minor. Since she didn’t do an Art & Design sponsored abroad program, the credits did not fulfill the International Experience requirement for her bachelor’s degree in the Art & Design School. Since she knew this would be an issue ahead of time, Malnaik said she proactively took BA 310 to fulfill the International Experience requirement. She said while she was grateful to find a way to get the credit outside of going abroad for a second time, she believes the Art & Design school needs to offer alternative in-residence classes that fulfill the study abroad requirement more consistently.
“I think the substitute classes are a great option, but the (Art & Design School) has not been good about making sure they’re regularly offered,” Malnaik said. “The class sizes are not large enough to accommodate the amount of people who need to be able to take them.”
Malnaik said she hopes the Art & Design school will increase its communication and transparency about the study abroad requirement to avoid student confusion, especially with the substitute classes being removed from the course guide.
“There’s been a little bit of miscommunication with some advisors leaving and saying things that are incorrect to different students, which leads to a lot of confusion,” Malnaik said. “I think that (the Art & Design School) is trying to do their best, especially with this new adjustment of expanding what satisfies the requirement. But for some of us, it’s too little too late.”
Other students expressed excitement about having the opportunity to take part in the International Experience once again. Art & Design sophomore Yuri Cho told The Daily she hopes to complete her International Experience through Ewha Womans University in South Korea because she has family there.
“Because I’m Korean myself and I have family that lives in South Korea, I was like, ‘Okay, why don’t I use this opportunity to go visit them?’ ” Cho said. “So I looked into the Canvas site a bit and then emailed an international advisor.”
Cho said while she is excited by this opportunity, she also believes the Art & Design School should be more flexible with the requirement to ensure that graduation is accessible and realistic for all students, regardless of their schedule and financial situation.
“I think it should be more heavily encouraged, but (the Art & Design School administration) are so adamant about keeping it a requirement,” Cho said. “Keep the other options accessible for people who cannot afford it. Because you’re just going to screw a bunch of students over if you don’t.”
Correction 11/21: The Art & Design School has provided the following expanded on-campus equivalencies for students graduating in winter 2024: an additional Race & Ethnicity course or one three-credit course from a list of 40 minors. There are also expanded on-campus equivalencies for the 2025 graduating cohort and onward.
Daily News Contributors Greta Fear and Edra Timmerman contributed reporting. Daily Staff Reporter Ji Hoon Choi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.