Management Leading Programs page 5


Professional Advisory Board
I first began advocating a Professional Advisory Board at the Kansas City Art Institute during the sixties. It was in the 1980s at Arizona State University that we finally were able to establish a professional board of advisors.

My plan was to sign at least one member with a national or international reputation and the others to be designers who work at a high level in the profession. We could afford a board of three. Two were ongoing members and the third position rotated.

My strategy was to bring the advisors in several times a year to meet with students and faculty, critique projects, lecture or possibly give a project. The principal use of the Advisory Board was at the end of the Spring semester when the entire board would assemble at the school. At the year-end finale, I would also invite the president of the local professional organization to participate. We would install an exhibit of student work from the entire year. Students would meet in the morning with the board without faculty presence to discuss the work and program. The board would meet with faculty during the afternoon to discuss the work and curriculum. I wanted to schedule lunch for the Department Head and Dean with the board where they could pass on their recommendations and observations regarding the Graphic Design program.

Having a good Professional Advisory Board adds status and credibility to the program. It is good for faculty morale and provides excellent role models for students. It is also useful in recruiting when you can show that caliber of professional input into the program. The board can convey to the Department Head and Dean an outside viewpoint which often has more weight with administrators than when the same message comes from the faculty. The board was also helpful for both faculty and students in making professional contacts.

Our board consisted of Jim Cross of Cross and Associates in Los Angeles, Steve Holler, Director of Visual Communications for Raychem Corporation in San Francisco, Jerry Herring of Herring Design in Houston and Carl Miller, Graphic Designer at IBM in San Jose.

After considerable effort, we were able to put through an Adjunct Professor appointment (without remuneration) for Jim Cross and he offered to teach a Senior seminar. We were unable to get credit for the seminar, and students really did not know the status of Jim Cross in the professional community so they were unaware of the opportunity available to them. Consequently, their attendance was not regular and productivity was erratic at best. My guess is that the experience was not particularly rewarding for Jim Cross.

The other two members of the board came in once or twice a semester to critique problems, lecture or meet with faculty. I was never able to arrange lunch as our administrators always said they were too busy. The Department Head never met with any of our board members. This was a disappointing experience but I think the concept was good and I would do it all over again.

A minority of students select a school on the basis of program quality or choose a program that fits their interests. Most students will base their application on what they can afford or what is convenient. Sometimes they will apply only to schools they have heard about, a teacher or friend has recommended the school, or someone they know attended that institution. The reasons for picking an institution are often superficial to educational goals. There is an assumption by most students that one degree in Graphic Design is as good as another, and it is of little consequence which school they attend. This is a dangerous presumption in any form of professional education.

Over the years I have interviewed with countless students, and sometimes parents, about what school they should attend. My impression is that most of them are vulnerable and they are like sheep going to be fleeced. They do not know what questions to ask, and what they want to hear from me is that our program is the best one in the country.

Questions prospective students
or their parents should ask

Is enrollment in Graphic Design limited to a specific number each year? If enrollment is not limited, it is likely that there are more majors than can be accommodated at one time and there will be competition to enroll in required classes. This may result in a student having to spend one to three extra years getting a BFA degree because of not being able to enroll in required courses because they are full.

How many credits are required in Graphic Design for a BFA? Any number of credits less than thirty-two to forty is going to be insufficient preparation for a career in Graphic Design. Ideally, there should be forty to fifty credits in the major.

How many Graphic Design instructors? Any less that four instructors means there is going to be a limited curriculum and that the program is inadequately staffed. A program with less than eighty majors can be effective with three instructors. An ideal teacher/student ratio should be about 1:15. There should be inquiry as to how many instructors are part-time and there should be a reasonable balance between full-time and part-time teachers.

Are majors taught separately from elective students? If majors and elective students are taught together, it reduces the class intensity and the educational experience for majors will be less.

How many Graphic Design Majors in the program? Are majors determined by student declaration or faculty acceptance? Any number greater than one hundred and fifteen means that courses are taught in more than two sections. If different teachers are instructing in different sections of the same course, there will be considerable inconsistencies which compound as students progress through the program. The overall educational experience will probably be less.

Do advanced students have fixed workspace? Seniors require fixed workspace, and it is best if Juniors can also have designated workstations. The availability of fixed workspace contributes to the learning environment and is a significant factor in student motivation and interaction.

What technical facilities are available and under what conditions? Graphic Design majors require unrestricted access to computers, xerographic and photographic facilities. Computer literacy is a mandatory requirement for employment following graduation.


Questions to Ask (continued) >


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