It has been perhaps a century since the world has undergone such a sweeping, synchronous change. As a convergence of technological advances, societal upheaval, and economic transformation birthed the industrial revolution, so too have instantaneous data sharing, geo-political upheaval, and global connectivity given rise to the “creative economy.” And at this unique juncture in the history of the world, no single group of individuals are as poised to lead as are the artists and designers that make up the ranks of MICA graduates.

MICA Annual Report 2012

The stubbornly high unemployment rate has hovered above 8% for most of 2011 and 2012, but there were almost 4 million job openings in the U.S. alone in June 2012. A 2010 IBM global survey of CEOs shines a light on the contradiction: fewer than half believed their organizations were equipped to deal with the growing complexity of the marketplace. Those same CEOs ranked creativity—ahead of rigor, management discipline, integrity, and vision—as the “single most important competency for enterprises seeking a path through this complexity,” and as the key to navigating the interconnected global economy.

U.S. employers rate creativity or innovation among the top five skills of increasing importance over the next five years, and MICA students are using their talents to do much more than go to work in routine jobs for international conglomerates. As is the case with more than 60% of art school graduates, many MICA alumni have started breathtakingly successful businesses. And when they do enter the corporate arena, they insist on re-envisioning their roles as transformative intrapreneurs who help organizations redefine their impact on society.

The 2012 IBM global survey lists “collaborative,” ”communicative” and “creative” as the top three traits most critical for employees’ future success. MICA students exemplify these traits through their constant collaboration with fellow students, instructors, government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, museums, foundations, philanthropists, and collectors. “Creative,” for example, scored 11 points higher than “analytical/quantitative” and in the survey 20 points higher than “technology-savvy,” proof that MICA’s curriculum design is what the world needs now, a course of study that teaches students how to think critically, problem solve, forecast outcomes, and then actualize.

More than 30% of the U.S. workforce and growing are engaged in creative services. And students are coming to MICA not only to learn about artmaking, but also about how the creative process can be used to invigorate other aspects of commerce and culture. The doubling of MICA’s graduate student enrollees since 2008 can be attributed in part to innovative programs such as the MPS in the Business of Art and Design program, which uses an online format to help creative professionals learn to build or sustain an art or design business.

From the basics of accounting, taxes, and marketing to complex issues such as risk analysis, pricing strategy, intellectual property, and contract negotiations, students learn how to ensure they can continue exposing the world to their artistic vision by developing a sustainable, economically-sound revenue stream. And, through a collaboration with Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School launched last fall, even professionals who aren’t artists or designers can learn how the design process, cultural relevance, visualization, and prototyping can heighten business innovation and creativity as they earn an MA in Design Leadership from MICA and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University—at the same time.

From undergraduate painting majors to MFA recipients in graphic design, MICA alumni count the visualization and collaboration skills they honed while on campus as their strategic advantage in a world where competition has never been fiercer. They own hundreds of businesses—large and small—and occupy countless creative leadership positions inside organizations at the vanguard of innovation. As they show the world the economic power of creativity, they are proving that the secret to success lies in doing what you love, in the MICA tradition of risk-taking and excellence.