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Management Leading Programs page 6

 
 

Questions prospective students or their parents should ask (continued)
If students are planning a career in Graphic Design and the program cannot meet or come close to the requirements for an effective education, they should not enroll!

If students are enrolled in a Graphic Design program and do not have adequate space or technical facilities; if there are insufficient credits in the major, if the program is understaffed or leadership is not working they should complain! If the institution offers Graphic Design, they are obliged to provide a reasonable educational program. Complaints should be taken to upper administration. Teachers and Department Heads usually cannot make the necessary changes. The Provost and President are the appropriate offices to approach. The complaints should be documented in writing and restricted to fundamental issues. Complaints are most effective when done by a committee of students rather than individuals. Students should be firm and persistent, they are paying tuition and have the right to demand an adequate education.

 

Selecting Students for the Program
When admission to the program is limited to a fixed number of students, it is perplexing to know how best to make the selection. Every faculty wants the best students but identifying them is extremely difficult. I have worked with portfolios and interviews, tests, and open admissions. In addition, I know of programs that accept students based entirely on SAT scores.

Personal interviews have most often led me astray. The student may come across as articulate, committed and having promise of being an ideal student. Once in the program there were often problems with attendance, productivity, attitude or the ability to handle design process.

One problem with portfolios is that you never know how much of the work is the student's or their teachers. An aspect of portfolios that I did find fairly reliable was an indication of commitment. My favorite is a crow-quill drawing about fifteen by twenty-four inches. I don't care about the subject material or whether it is a good drawing. I know what it takes in time and effort to fill that space with a crow-quill pen. This is a clear message that the student is willing to work, sustain effort and that the work is rewarding to them. Any piece of work that requires intensive effort and requires an extended length of time to complete usually reflects the desired qualities in a student. I prefer seeing drawings to collages, paintings or conceptual art.

At Arizona State University, we used a modified version of a visual test devised by Robert Swinehart at Carnegie Mellon University. The test had sections on line drawing, concept, color, visual and verbal directions and design orientation. The student could submit five pieces of work of their choice with the test. The test was made available in the Spring semester and applicants came to my office, signed in and were given the test. I marked on the sign-up sheet those students who were handicapped or minorities so we would have this information when we scored the tests. We were accepting a maximum of forty-four students each year. The tests were collected and on a Saturday the entire faculty went through all the materials and scored the tests. We used a four point scoring system so that we could also figure in Grade Point Average. The thirty-five to thirty-eight highest scores were automatically accepted. We then reviewed handicapped, minority and those students who had applied the previous year and been rejected. After considerable review and discussion, the faculty chose the final students to fill the quota. The names of the accepted students were posted. This was a very objective process for selecting students, but we did not seem to have any better students than if we'd used other procedures. Perhaps a lottery is next.

The best method for selecting students is similar to that used at Basel where they have what amounts to a one year admissions process. They select a fixed number of students from applicants who then enter into a one-year admissions process. The students take basic courses for one year, and on the basis of work and progress, a fixed number of them are admitted into the program. I have worked with an open admissions for the first year and then weaned out those students who seemed uncommitted or unsuited for the program. This process worked best. A Sophomore Review where students are accepted by faculty recommendation to advance into the Junior program accomplishes the same purpose. However, it leaves only two years for professional education.

Another method that might work is to have beginning students in the Department take a general Foundations the first semester, and elect either a Design or Fine Arts emphasis in the second semester. Graphic Designs students could be selected based on performance in the second semester. This also permits Graphic Design to add one semester to the program.

It was always our policy to require transfer students to take our entire program regardless of what level they reached at another institution. Any accumulation of design credits were applied to elective requirements.

 

Student Records
In every program with which I have been involved, there has been a fairly high rate of attrition. Usually the largest number of students withdrew or were dropped in the Sophomore level; four to six as Juniors and two or three as Seniors. Overall, there would be a forty to fifty percent attrition rate for the total program.

At The Minneapolis School of Art, I soon encountered problems with failed students or their parents. Other than grades, justification for failing students came down to the teacher's word against that of the student, and for me, this was an untenable situation.

My response was to develop a form which accommodated all the Graphic Design courses and teachers. Each course had a separate space for a grade and teacher comments. The student's name, date and grade level were also recorded. At reviews, the forms were filled out, and they were kept in alphabetical sequence in a loose-leaf notebook. As the student moved through the program, the forms accumulated. The notebook moved from one teacher to the next as students moved ahead. Each new teacher could review the student's progress to that point with all the previous teacher's comments. In dealing with either students or parents regarding grades or being dropped from the program, the records were invaluable and certainly eased our previous problems with justifying faculty action. The records were also helpful in supplying information for job references after students graduated.

Over the years, the forms were further refined. We eventually made a separate form for mid-term reviews. The procedure we most often followed was to have the students stack the work on their desk during the scheduled class-time including a sheet of paper with their name on it. The students were not present when the teacher went through the work. The instructor wrote comments and gave a tentative grade for each student. These were copied with one copy left with the student's work and the other put into the record book. Keeping these records did mean extra work for teachers but it kept students informed, and generally, the procedure was well worth the effort.


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