Arts and Architecture enriches locally, prepares students globally

November 21, 2008

University Park, Pa. — Penn State's College of Arts and Architecture continues to increase its national reputation in the arts while enriching the University and regional communities and preparing students to thrive in a global environment. Penn State's Board of Trustees learned Friday (Nov. 21).

"Through involvement with major Penn State initiatives such as the Institute for Energy and the Environment, the Social Science Research Institute and the Smart Spaces initiative, the College of Arts and Architecture is showing others within the University how the arts and design disciplines address global problems," said Dean Barbara O. Korner.

The College of Arts and Architecture includes seven academic units, unified by their focus on creativity: architecture, landscape architecture, art history, integrative arts, music, theatre and visual arts. Many of the college's programs are ranked in the top 10 nationally, including theatre and musical theatre, architecture, art education, ceramics, and landscape architecture, which was ranked first in 2007 by DesignIntelligence Survey of Leading Landscape Architecture Programs. While most programs in the arts are judged by qualitative methods and usually not included in traditional rankings, Korner noted that the College of Arts and Architecture's programs rank highly in peer screenings and accreditation reviews. For example, the graphic design program received international recognition in 2007 when Penn State students' work was featured on the cover of the Graphis New Talent Annual, the most respected international student design competition and showcase. 

In addition to the academic units, the College of Arts and Architecture includes four museum and performing arts units whose programs complement the college's educational offerings: Center for the Performing Arts, Music at Penn's Woods, Palmer Museum of Art and Pennsylvania Centre Stage. The museum and performing arts units play an essential role in the college's outreach efforts and contribute to the college's visibility at Penn State and in the surrounding region. Their performances, exhibitions and other events, along with performances presented by the schools of Music and Theatre, have reached hundreds of thousands of  people since 2005. The museum and performing arts units frequently collaborate with the academic units in the presentation of master classes, guest lectures, workshops and other special programs.

According to Korner, an important goal is to continue to expand interaction and collaboration across the entire college, both in research and creative work.

"Many believe that our next real economic growth will come from creative artists, designers and storytellers who can work with scientists to address global problems through creative problem-solving and designing new systems to explore a wide range of possible solutions."

Collaboration has been made easier in part thanks to the establishment of the Arts District, which has brought almost all college buildings together on the northeast corner of the University Park campus, in the area formerly known as "Ag Hill." "Bringing together Arts and Architecture faculty from various places around campus provides a stronger feeling of unity among members of the college," Korner noted.

The College of Arts and Architecture is currently developing a multi-year master plan for facilities and technology. E-learning in the arts at Penn State has increased greatly since the establishment of the e-Learning Institute in 2005. The college currently offers 24 online courses across five of its academic units, with 96 percent of online course enrollments serving the general arts student population. Online courses in popular music, rock & roll and even Elvis Presley reach thousands of students per semester through the Penn State World Campus. An online digital arts certificate and master of professional studies in art education are currently in development as part of the College of Arts and Architecture's push to meet student demand and generate revenue through online degrees and programs.

While enrollment in the College of Arts and Architecture's online courses has increased greatly, enrollment in the majors grew a modest 1.5 percent between fall 2003 and fall 2007, reflecting more rigorous admission standards within the college. Several areas require portfolios or auditions.

The college is reaching a greater number of non-majors through general education courses.  The total number of student credit hours in the college increased 10.5 percent between fall 2003 and fall 2007, compared to 5.2 percent in the University as a whole. "We have obviously enhanced our ability to provide general education courses to all Penn State students," Korner noted.

Within the College of Arts and Architecture, the number of undergraduates participating in study abroad programs grew 16.4 percent between fall 2003 and fall 2007, reflecting the increasing focus on international experience among the arts and design professions. In addition, many students are involved in global initiatives led by College of Arts and Architecture faculty. Examples include service-learning projects in the Czech Republic and the Orkney Islands, and performance tours throughout Europe.

Many faculty initiatives would not be possible without the support of the College of Arts and Architecture's alumni and friends. The 2007–08 fiscal year was a banner one, with the college raising approximately $5.3 million, almost $2.5 million more than its goal. The college received approximately 400 more gifts than the previous year.

"Our alumni and friends' increasing and continuing support of our college demonstrates that we have not only generous donors, but donors with a vision of what the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture can become," said Korner. "I share their optimistic vision and look forward to guiding the college to bigger and better things."

  • The School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, housed in the Stuckeman Family Building (above), is one of the higlights of the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture.

    IMAGE: Greg Grieco

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Last Updated November 18, 2010