MU launches new School of Visual Studies within College of Arts and Science

Director Jo Stealey: “We do not intend to be the biggest program. Rather, our goal is to be the best, and we are going to be the best. We already are the best.”

Artist and co-owner of Sager Braudis Gallery Joel Sager observes the crowd of people as they admire art on Wednesday, September 26, 2017. Sager is a contemporary American painter of landscapes, still-life and portraiture.

After a year and a half of planning, countless faculty meetings and proposals to the administration, the School of Visual Studies was launched on Sept. 27 at an art exhibition held at the Sager Braudis Gallery.

This is the first major reorganization within the College of Arts and Science in the last 30 to 40 years, and it is the result of the consolidation of the art, art history, film studies and digital storytelling programs.

The gallery last week showcased various artwork in its exhibition representing multiple MU students and faculty members. The event also included speakers Garnett Stokes, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, Pat Okker, interim dean of the College of Arts and Science and Jo Stealey, inaugural director of the School of Visual Studies.

According to Stealey, faculty members from the four departments came together and began discussing plans for the collaborative project about a year and a half ago. Last spring they decided to put forward a formal request to make a proposal to Okker, which received her approval, followed by the chancellor’s and the provost’s.

“President Choi, Chancellor Cartwright and I fully support the School of Visual Studies as they focus on the creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration that will prepare our students for their futures,” Stokes said. “This dynamic and innovative school will position the University of Missouri at the forefront of visual art studies in the 21st century through its blending of art, media and theory.”

The goal of this new school is to provide students with opportunities to learn skills that will help them succeed after graduation.

“The faculty are committed to giving our students the technical skills and the playful ingenuity they need to be successful in the 21st century, regardless of what professions they end up in,” Okker said. “The school aims to graduate future generations of outstanding critical thinkers, innovative problem solvers, and makers of conscientious well-crafted art.”

Stealey said that the School of Visual Studies was a step forward purely from an academic standpoint and was not a result of budget restraints.

“This does not have to do with budget cuts,” Stealey said. “This has to do with MU moving forward and ensuring we are providing the best opportunity that we can for our students and the best education that we can.”

However, according to the Associated Press, MU’s College of Arts and Sciences has been hit the hardest by the UM System’s budget cuts, losing around $9.6 million and laying off approximately 70 jobs.

The School of Visual Studies brings in new and enhanced opportunities for students, especially those within the four majors, to take advantage of resources they previously did not have.

“The School of Visual Studies will allow them to interweave their disciplines and find a form they really enjoy,” said Alyssa Gregory, a senior majoring in digital storytelling and English. “I’m a little sad I wasn’t here for more of it since I’m about to graduate, but I’m excited for the students coming up to have more opportunities.”

Edited by Sarah Hallam | shallam@themaneater.com

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