With an arts department that includes more than 500 faculty members, it’s no wonder the university’s artistic program is ranked in the top 10 in the US.
But it’s not just the faculty who contribute to the success of the University of Michigan, says the university, with students making up about 70% of the students enrolled in the school’s departments.
“Students are the backbone of our department,” says Robert D. Dittrich, director of the arts department, which includes a wide range of disciplines.
“It’s about students that are willing to put in a long hours and work in their field of study.”
The arts department is one of just three arts departments in the country that receive a full-time arts grant, and its students, as a group, make up about 40% of students.
“It’s a great program,” says Dittric, who is also director of student affairs.
“I’ve had many wonderful students come to me and say, ‘I’m not sure I want to do this again because it’s so expensive, I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it.'”
Dittrick adds that he was excited to work with the student body when he took over in 2010.
“The whole department was looking for new ways to be innovative and to bring new things to students and to be creative,” he says.
Dittric’s experience as an arts professor at the University at Buffalo was instrumental in developing the universitys curriculum, and he was inspired by the student activism of the 1990s and 2000s.
“We started to develop a model for the arts that was about the students and their creative efforts and about their ability to create,” he recalls.
The department also provides a variety of support services, including a music department and the first graduate arts program in the state.
It also provides an innovative curriculum in which students learn from experts in the field and are exposed to a wide variety of ideas.
“They’re exposed to the different types of ideas, and how to apply them,” says student Ashley DePelter.
“So the whole curriculum and the whole approach to it is very creative.”
“This is one area where I think we’re really in the forefront of it,” says Landon A. Mazzulli, an associate professor in the department of communications.
In addition to helping to provide an arts education for the students, the department also offers a number of other educational programs, including an English department, a biology department, an art history department, and a journalism department.
Mazzullis says that the department’s success stems from the collaborative nature of its faculty.
“There’s a really strong faculty base, and we have a lot of faculty members who are really passionate about their work, and they really want to get out of their classroom and into the field,” he adds.
More than 80% of its students have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the department, making it one of the highest concentrations of arts education in the university.
But while its graduates are eager to continue pursuing their arts interests, some students are not so keen.
According to a survey of undergraduate students conducted by the College Board, less than 30% of those who took part in the survey chose to continue their studies.
“For many students, it was a very hard decision,” says Mazzulis.
“When they think about where they want to go to college, they want the most comprehensive education possible.”
For the rest of the university community, the arts program is also a model of innovation.
“What we do is we give students a chance to really explore what it is that they love to do, and it’s an exciting program for students,” says DePelster.
And while the arts and humanities departments are popular in the United States, there are more diverse arts programs in other parts of the world, including in Germany, Brazil, and India.
For Dittris, it is a privilege to be able help students achieve their goals.
“This is something that we have in our country, we have to be really vigilant in terms of what we’re doing, because the art and humanities are just a small part of the whole,” he continues.
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