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Art/Design unit aims for NASAD accreditation

By Demi Manglona

For the past two years, UT’s art and design unit, consisting of the departments of art and film, animation and new media, has been working with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) with the goal of earning the university’s accreditation. UT already has accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). If the new program is approved, it can enhance the quality of the art and design department, as well as the film, animation and new media (FMX) department.

To highlight the quality of student performance, faculty members from the art and design department are featuring student work at the annual Juried Student Exhibition at Scarfone/Hartley Gallery until March 29. On the last day of the event, students will receive awards for their artwork.

Previously, students of all majors were able to submit their artwork to the gallery. This year’s exhibition, however, features only handpicked works of from every art and design course that UT offers. Scarfone/Hartley is divided into class sections, ranging from foundations to 400-level classes to independent study works.

“The goal was to show progression throughout the ‘levels’ for each program,” said Chris Valle, chair and professor of art and design and official reporting officer to NASAD. “Faculty chose work to best represent each discipline.”

Accreditation is different that standardizing programs which provide a blueprint to follow, according to Valle. Instead, NASAD will provide a framework of basic skills and operational conditions UT must maintain.

“[Standards] promote good decisions because they focus attention on artistic and educational essentials,” Valle said.

NASAD will look at the exhibition to gauge the university’s quality of teaching and improvement. Displaying high quality student work is one of the ways in which the department can show NASAD that UT is fit for its standards. Though judging art is subjective, the body of work will be judged on consistency rather than style, according to Michael Ingold, lecturer of art and design.

Ingold is also the studio safety technician for the art department and has worked at two other universities that had accreditations. In his experience, Ingold pointed out the positive aspects of accreditation that benefit the university, students and faculty alike.

By maintaining student-to-teacher ratios and contact times, as well as the number of full-time faculty and many other standards, the university keeps its accreditation. In turn, the university will be able to fund the department, providing the proper resources and facilities.

“It ensures that [students] will get a well-rounded education and that they’re guaranteed certain rights and access to faculty,” said Ingold. “It makes [students’] journey through the art department a little more comfortable.”

In addition to better resources, the accreditation will help boost UT’s academic rapport. If NASAD approves the university, it will be one of the few accredited schools in Florida, according to Ingold.

“It’s a nice thing to tell parents and prospective students that our program is held to the highest standard relative to other universities in Florida,” Ingold said.

Ingold estimated that it will take NASAD until the end of summer to determine UT’s eligibility. Valle said that since preparing for the evaluation, the department’s curriculum, facilities and health and safety standards have improved

Valle worked with Dana Plays, professor of FMX, when self-reporting on the art department’s quality through faculty perspective. The professors will submit the 300+ page report to NASAD in addition to the art exhibition. Though its programs used to fall under the communications department, the FMX department moved its curriculum into art and design.

The FMX department is also holding their own exhibition at the Black Box Studio in the Cass Building to show its student content. The 14-monitor gallery includes moving image student works like narrative films, animations and interactive media, representing each of the four majors within the FMX program.

“The idea was to show the steps in learning that students go through within the course work of their chosen major,” Plays said. “We look forward to continued growth and outreach for our programs, and have recently added new courses to start in 2019-20.”

These courses include subjects like sound design, virtual reality, motion performance capture, interactive application production and history of animation.

Senior art major Delaney Bend was one of the students selected to attend an informational NASAD meeting. In the meeting, students answered questions regarding the university’s standards and requirements. They suggested improvements for the department and learned about potential reformations, according to Bend.

“The accreditation will not affect me in any way, but the changes that are coming from what I’ve heard — and cannot share — all sound very positive and make me very proud to soon be an alumni,” Bend said. “The future art students will have even better opportunities to delve into their selected media, form more connections, and further their careers.”

Though the future looks bright, Bend is concerned about the competition accreditation may bring unwanted competition. She said the department is currently a tight-knit community that doesn’t have a sense of “cut-throat” pressures.

“I just hope the accreditation doesn’t change that.”

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