Columbia programs coalesce, provide real-world experience

By Assistant Campus Editor

Kaitlin Hetterscheidt
Amy Mooney in one of Columbia’s newly remodeled A+D classrooms.

After more than five years of planning, a group of faculty members from across the college have created a foundations program for incoming freshmen pursuing a degree in the Art + Design, Fashion Studies or Photography departments.

Amy Mooney, associate professor of art history in the A+D Department, said a series of courses have been created to integrate students’ first year experiences with the practices of art and design at the college. Freshmen will now be required to complete a series of visual arts classes to better familiarize them with their area of study and introduce them to other programs and departments, Mooney said.

“The practices that [the interdisciplinary faculty] are looking at are definitely intended [to function in an interdisciplinary fashion], and the curriculum is really built out in a more cohesive way,” Mooney said.

She said Fall 2014 freshmen will not be required to take the foundations courses and the transition continues to be a slow process that will likely be complete for freshmen entering in the spring and fall semesters of 2015.

According to Mooney, students’ graduation timetables will not be impacted, but the program is simplifying fundamental curriculum courses and allowing freshman undergraduate students to take advanced classes earlier in their college careers.

“We’re trying to create a more universal program that would benefit our students and free up credits for them [in their coming years at Columbia],” Mooney said.

Each department will remain independent but will utilize the new program as their core curriculum, allowing students to be exposed to all areas of study, Mooney said.

The faculty members working on this program include A+D faculty Elizabeth Odom, Brandon Alvendia, Joan Giroux, Taylor Hokanson, Whitney Huber, Duncan MacKenzie, Onur Ozturk, Fo Wilson and Justin Witte, Greg Foster-Rice of the Photography Department and Debra Parr of the Fashion Studies Department, according to a Sept. 10 emailed statement from Mooney.

“It’s an incredible collaboration,” Mooney said. “In my 12 years at Columbia, I have worked in the A+D Department, but this is the first time we’re incorporating various chairs and deans from other areas.”

Dana Connell, associate chair of the Fashion Studies Department, said the change is positive and will benefit students.

“Instead of single skill sets being learned in a class, it’s a more integrated approach,” Connell said. “The real world is about having a variety of skills that cross and intersect.”

Connell said it is important to create an interdisciplinary approach to the foundations of each A+D program, adding that it is a more contemporary method. She said it is valuable for students to be introduced to different kinds of majors that can broaden their future.

The foundation courses are already listed in the course selection guide on OASIS, the college’s online database. “Introduction to Visual Culture” was previously an elective, and art history students are encouraged to take it, according to Mooney’s Sept. 10 email.

According to the class description guide, there are classes such as “Making I” and “Making II,” which expand visual ideas and delve into the relationships between objects and images. The visual arts foundation classes will offer a broader range of study during a semester instead of tightly focusing on one concept, according to the faculty that created the new program.

Tim Cozzens, interim chair of the A+D Department, said it is a nomenclature describing the evolution of program. He said this will be a college-wide change that will unify students in all three of the affected departments by making them work together as a cohesive unit.

Both students and faculty will be affected by classes being cut as well as by the new classes being added to the curriculum.

“Whenever there’s a new way of approaching things, there is going to be friction,” Cozzens said.