When Bryan Rogers, dean of the School of Art & Design, addresses the freshman class at the beginning of each academic year, he tells them three things: to take care of themselves, not to define themselves too narrowly and to use their passports.
This international mentality has been channeled into a new requirement for students at the School of Art & Design. Starting in the fall of 2010 all incoming Art & Design students will be required to study abroad at some point during their time at the University of Michigan.
Currently, about half of the school’s 500 undergraduates study abroad at some point during their four years at the University, said Mary Schmidt, associate dean for academic affairs and undergraduate education at the School of Art & Design.
The graduate program at the School of Art & Design already has a study abroad requirement.
Joe Trumpey, associate professor and director of international engagement at the School of Art & Design, has been working with Rogers for three years to develop this new requirement. He said the program’s aim is to give students a more global education by requiring them to study in a different cultural setting.
“The goal is to have our students get beyond our borders to engage in some interdisciplinary and intercultural learning and experiences, so the requirement is broader than just study abroad,” Trumpey said.
The minimum time a student must study abroad to fulfill the requirement is three weeks. But the School of Art & Design administration encourages students to study abroad for at least a semester to get the optimal experience, Schmidt said.
Art & Design students can choose from a variety of programs including volunteer, internship and not-for-credit programs, as well as the University’s Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates program.
The School of Art & Design has already established 22 partnerships with various foreign institutions, Trumpey said. He added that the school is looking to establish between 10 and 15 more partnerships in the next two years so that students will have a variety of locations from which to choose.
“The real strategy here is to be able to have a spectrum of the kinds of experiences that a diverse group of students could find appealing,” he said. “China and India are certainly top priorities, and I’d like to get a sub-Saharan Africa culture on that list as well.”
Through these partnerships, a University student will swap places with an international student from a foreign institution, bringing that student to the University. Schmidt said the exchange program will benefit both University students going abroad and the School of Art & Design.
“It will also enrich the environment here by their very presence,” Schmidt said. “It works both ways.”
Schmidt added that both the University student and the exchange student will be able to keep their financial aid awards in most cases.
Trumpey said that along with the study abroad requirement there will also be an increase in available financial aid so that it is possible for every student to participate in an affordable international experience. This increase in financial aid will come from alumni donors, Trumpey said.
“Dean Rogers has stated that this is kind of our No. 1 fundraising goal — trying to come up with appropriate funding so that all of our students can come up with an experience without having a financial reason for not being able to participate,” Trumpey said.
Art & Design freshman Samara Harte said that while she thinks the requirement will benefit students by giving them the chance to interact with art in another cultural setting, it may also be restrictive for students who don’t want to study abroad during college.
“I think that it’s a good idea because it introduces other cultures and how it pertains to art, so I think it’s good for students to be required to experience that,” Harte said. “But on the other hand, I feel like it’s kind of harsh to force someone to go. What if they wanted to travel later on in life? I just think it puts a big strain on the student.”
Art & Design freshman Jenny Forrest, who is planning to study abroad in Italy during her time as a student, said the requirement will provide the opportunity for everyone to get involved in an international experience.
“They want you to experience art in a different country, and by going abroad it will be a better experience than just staying another semester in the Art School,” she said.
Forrest, who is studying graphic design and computer art, also said that going abroad will give students important skills to help them in the job market.
“By learning it in a different country you get more experience and more education under your belt, so when you come back here you’re more prepared because you have that experience, especially if you’re looking into an international job,” she said.
Trumpey said the experience will help students succeed in an increasingly interconnected world.
“We live in a globalized world,” Trumpey said. “Students will learn a lot about home by getting away from home. Gaining new perspectives are really an important part of the college experience and this is really a meaningful way to do it.”
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