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Students Seek Academically Challenging Coursework, Humanities Mix

New BFA in Humanistic Studies/Studio Discipline created for students who want to be challenged

Posted 04.01.11 by MICA Communications

I hope to engage these young artists in ways that prepare them to become public intellectuals as well as socially and politically engaged artists. 

Matt Rockefeller

- Firmin DeBrabander,
chair of the Department
of Humanistic Studies




When it came time to think about college, Matt Rockefeller '14 was torn. "I knew I wanted to pursue a creative field because of the opportunities to work on personal creative projects as well as more collaborative projects. But there was definitely an internal struggle between academics and art, since I'm passionate about both," he said.

A gifted student with a 4.26 grade point average and ranked third in his class at Sabino High School in Tucson, Arizona, Rockefeller immersed himself in his school's music program and in academics, taking AP classes in calculus, English, and history. His experience in visual art was different. Because his school offered only two classes--which Rockefeller fought to fi t into his schedule--the majority of his creative experiences came through his personal pursuits as he experimented with art at home and in between classes.

"It was not until my senior year that I decided to specifically go to an art college," Rockefeller said. "MICA's commitment to academic studies was a huge part of my decision to come here. I am very interested in writing and history, and the other art schools I applied to did not seem to treat these subjects with the same attention as their studio classes."

Rockefeller's dedication to art and academics is shared by many of his classmates at MICA. In recent years, the College has increased the prominence of its liberal arts offerings, determining they should be as rigorous as its studio programming. This focus on both art and academics is evident in the caliber of students the College has attracted.

Many students come to MICA already well-rounded as artists, scholars, student leaders, athletes, musicians, and writers. Over the past three years, entering freshmen have included seven Presidential Scholars; eight finalists in the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts' YoungArts competition; a Gold Medalist for the NAACP's Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics; the national winner of the Latino Art Beat Hispanic Heritage Scholarship; and a Gates Millennium Scholarship winner. The average GPA of the class that entered in fall 2010 was 3.57, and the average SAT score was 1758, 249 points above the national average.

MICA's BFA in Humanistic Studies/Studio Discipline was created just for students who want to be challenged as scholars. It is an integrated degree that allows students to gain the same depth of understanding in liberal arts as they establish in their artmaking.

"MICA has been seeking and welcoming students who want to be scholars and artists and who are interested in robust academic study," said Firmin DeBrabander, head of the Department of Humanistic Studies and chair of the new program. "I hope to engage these young artists in ways that prepare them to become public intellectuals as well as socially and politically engaged artists."

The new BFA has been met with excitement from students. As DeBrabander noted, "last spring, when we attended one of MICA's official visit days for prospective students, we were mobbed by students and their parents."

Daniel Calderwood '14, a recipient of a MICA Academic Excellence Scholarship and current member of the Dean's List, considered multiple art schools before choosing MICA.

"The liberal arts program was a big factor for me," Calderwood said. "When I looked at MICA and saw that they have liberal arts minors, it was exciting. None of the other schools I visited had that option. I'm interested in studying literature as well as culture and politics."

Julia Wolkoff '14 chose MICA over an extensive list of liberal arts and fine arts schools. When describing her college choice, Wolkoff said, "I applied to ten liberal arts colleges and only two art schools, and my biggest question was about the work I wanted to do while in college. I really wanted to study art history, but I also realized that I wanted to pursue hands-on artwork. MICA was my first choice."

"In high school, I excelled in academics and pursued art on my own time," she continued. "Now I'm learning to approach a project the way an artist approaches a project. I have six hours of classes a day and when I leave class, I go home and make something; the work doesn't end when class ends. Foundation year has been eye-opening, and I look forward to the future, when I can add study of poetry and literature to my work in art."


Photo credit: Freshman Matt Rockefeller came to MICA largely because of the College's commitment to humanities.