A 21st century arts and humanities undergraduate education must offer extensive and supported opportunities for students to deepen their awareness of their place in a global world, to cultivate digital fluencies and ethical thinking, and to engage in professional development in order to make a successful transition to meaningful work.
In order to attract a diverse, high achieving, and engaged student body to the College, we will create a new Arts & Letters Citizen Scholars program (see diagram 2) that has three dimensions: aspiration, reward, and elevated expectation. All students with at least one major in the College, regardless of their academic record prior to arriving at MSU, will be challenged to perform their way into the Citizens Scholars program by enrolling in challenging courses and achieving at a high level of academic excellence. Students who demonstrate sustained academic excellence over two semesters will be admitted as Citizen Scholars and rewarded with $5K of enrichment funding to be used for required study abroad/internship/engaged undergraduate research experiences. Students will then be expected to perform at a yet higher level and to integrate ethical leadership and civic responsibility into their undergraduate experience to graduate as Arts and Letters Citizen Scholars.
The Arts & Letters Citizen Scholars program has three fundamental dimensions:
Students with at least one major in College of Arts & Letters will be invited to perform their way into the program.
$5,000 in financial assistance for study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, or other approved transformative educational experiences.
Students will be challenged to meet extra requirements and to perform at a higher level to graduate with an Arts & Letters Citizen Scholars designation.
To sustain this program, which we hope will include 100 students a year, we will ultimately need an endowment of $10M to provide each student with $5K in enrichment funding each year. The Citizen Scholars program is our main fundraising priority at the undergraduate level, but it will require an initial annual investment from the College of $500K starting in year two of the program, once an initial cohort of students earn their way into the Citizen Scholars program.
The Citizen Scholars program is at the center of a strategic initiative to enrich the undergraduate experience, diversify our undergraduate student body, and ensure the retention and academic success of our students. The Citizen Scholars program will also enable us to align our strategic priorities with those of the Honors College as we will structure the Citizen Scholars program to prepare more College of Arts & Letters students to enter the Honors College as campus admits after their first semester. We will contribute to the Honors College’s goal of increasing external undergraduate fellowships and scholarships by developing workshops and financial incentives for Citizen Scholars to apply for highly competitive scholarships like the Beinecke, Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright.
We also have undertaken a systematic review of undergraduate advising in the College with an eye toward providing more sustained and professional support for student success while freeing the faculty to focus more on student mentoring. Investing in a centralized professional advising structure and enhancing our career network will position our students to more effectively articulate the value of an arts and humanities education for a wide range of careers.
We continue to develop a curriculum that includes the business aspects of the arts and theatre, such as the growing Arts and Cultural Management program, alongside strong traditional humanities departments that instill in students the skills in writing, critical thinking, persuasion, innovation, and creativity that are most sought after by employers. The College is taking a lead in developing courses like THR208: “Innovation through Improvisation,” STA303: “Design Thinking,” and CAS/AL114: “Creativity and Entrepreneurship” for the new Entrepreneurship & Innovation minor in collaboration with the Broad College of Business. Religious Studies is also developing an option in Non-Profit Leadership, which will contribute to our focused attempts to integrate the College into broader initiatives in entrepreneurship.
Our growing major in Graphic Design, our minor in digital humanities, and our innovative new major in Experience Architecture (XA) anchor our efforts to build strength in design and digital humanities at the undergraduate level. The XA major in particular is at the leading-edge of a new kind of humanities major that is rooted in the liberal arts tradition of excellent writing and rhetorical sophistication even as it creates opportunities for students to work across disciplines in collaboration with experts from diverse backgrounds to develop solutions to questions of user experience, interaction design, usability, information architecture, project management, and application development. Only in its third semester of operation, XA already has more than 50 majors. Investments in faculty with research strengths in design and digital humanities will be critical to the success of these programs.
Film Studies is at the center of the College’s priority in further develop strengths in media arts. Our innovative BA in Film Studies was founded in the spring of 2015, and we offer two cross-college filmmaking minors with the College of Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS) in Fiction Filmmaking and Documentary Production. These undergraduate initiatives at the curriculum level anchor our newly energized commitment to robust collaboration with CAS and the College of Music that we are calling the Media Arts Collaborative (MAC).
The MAC initiative is designed to give CAS, CAL, and the College of Music a coordinated way to facilitate collaborative projects between the colleges that enrich the undergraduate learning experience and provide faculty opportunities to work together on innovative media arts projects. CAS and CAL have agreed on a goal to raise $2M in a shared endowment that would enable us to provide $100K of funding annually to undergraduate projects that cut across colleges working on media arts. In addition, the College of Music has agreed to partner with us through its own fundraising initiatives as well as by committing expendable and endowment funds to collaborative projects in media arts. Drawing on the success of the Theatre2Film project that brought the first ever student written and produced feature length film to the Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF), the three colleges are working collaboratively to create more opportunities for students to participate in the full range of the media arts creative process, from theory to practice, and from planning to implementation. These are rich educational experiences that teach students how to manage projects, work across disciplines, compromise, learn to fail fast, and create innovative work—skills they will need to transition to successful careers in a wide variety of professions. A second emerging dimension of the MAC is a shared goal to build a tighter network of alumni from the three colleges in the film and media arts industry to support our students as they transition from MSU to careers in film, acting, performance, music, and the media arts.
The collaboration between CAS, CAL, and the College of Music will enhance our shared effort to create a more coherent arts and culture experience for our students through the MSU Cultural Engagement Council (CEC). The College will partner with CEC colleagues to create, support, and develop University cultural engagement co-curriculum programing that uses micro-credentialing to empower students to be engaged citizen leaders capable of integrating a sophisticated understanding of arts and culture into their experience at Michigan State University and beyond.