I began my education at the University of Nebraska in 1946.
My major was advertising design. Art was relatively new at
the university, and there was no general introductory program.
Educational sequence was controlled through a system of prerequisites.
I was permitted to enroll in only one three-credit studio
course per semester in the first year, and my instructor was
With prerequisites, the institution controls enrollment through
assignment of personnel and the number of classes. Unfortunately,
the demand is often greater than the availability of courses,
and many students have to spend extended periods of time to
get into required classes. The prerequisite requirement can
add as much as two years to the time a student must spend
to earn an undergraduate degree. When students cannot enroll
in the desired class, they generally sign up for other classes.
This benefits the institution through added tuition income,
while at the same time, the students are still listed as departmental
majors inflating the enrollment figures for art and design.
Because of the interrupted program and lack of consistency
resulting from different teachers in several sections, the
educational effectiveness is relatively low. The fragmented
program also denies students the value of the collective educational
experience where students move through the program as a group.
Multi-use space is operationally efficient but it detracts
from the educational quality as students do not have a home
base. Attending university can be like going to school in
a bus station and living out of a locker. Controlling enrollment
and sequencing of courses through prerequisites tends to favor
the institution much more than it does the student.
1948, I transferred to the Minneapolis School of Art and was
enrolled as an advertising design major at the sophomore level.
The introductory studies program was for two years, and it
was based on painting, sculpture, basic design and drawing.
was at the time when the number of students under the GI Bill
peaked, and the school was over-subscribed. A number of WPA
artists were hired as teachers to handle the influx of students.
My recollection of the introductory studies program is somewhat
hazy. However, teachers from every department were assigned
to the program and each taught what was considered basic to
their discipline. Painters worked with values, and assignments
were limited to painting still-lifes in black, white and shades
of gray. Sculptors worked with clay and plaster.
design was borrowed from Bauhaus imagery and drawing was based
entirely on life drawing from a model with charcoal on newsprint.
I think a class in calligraphy was also required. My memory
is that sections were rotated through the program in semester
units rather than having multiple sections. However, drawing
was taught in sections by several instructors. I believe that
two-year programs for introductory studies were commonplace
in visual art programs throughout the country at that time.
Even to this day, assignment of faculty to the first year
is often influenced by older notions of reserving what is
perceived as the best teachers for upper level students. Teachers
who are young and inexperienced, those near retirement and
believed to be out of date, those considered to be weak instructors
or even teachers being punished by administration are frequently
assigned to foundations.
program was fragmented both in content and instructional philosophy.
While the educational content was often of dubious quality,
the educational experience for students was reasonably consistent.
There was institutional restraint in enrollment which was
Variables: Team Teaching
As a result of the Albers program at Yale University
during the 1950s, a few schools adopted a new concept for
introductory studies. A faculty of four to six full-time faculty
were recruited to teach only in the Foundations program. If
I am not mistaken, I think this was when the term Foundations
was coined. A large space that would accommodate one hundred
plus students was allocated to the program.
was fixed-use space and students had access every day including
weekends until midnight. The faculty team taught the entire
group as one class. Drawing, color, two- and three-dimensional
design with some visiting lecturers were the mainstay of the
program. All work was based in perceptual theory. This was
a period when most schools put a great deal of emphasis on
teaching required a very close working relationship among
faculty, and there was constant interaction among faculty
members regarding program development and student progress.
Because faculty involvement was limited to Foundations, teachers
had no particular vested interests in where students would
go after completing the program.
principal advantages of this system was the unbiased relationship
with students. One of the drawbacks to the earlier practice
of drawing teachers from each of the disciplines was the constant
pressure on students from teachers attempting to recruit the
best ones into their program. Also, because of the singular
assignment to Foundations, faculty did not have to cope with
a divided commitment. Team teaching the students as one class
insured every student of having exactly the same educational
experience. Perhaps one of the more significant changes was
reducing introductory studies to one year.