By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read March 2020 — While all higher education institutions operate with the purpose of preparing students for future lifelong careers, Ringling College of Art and Design is also working to shatter the myth of the starving artist, school President Larry Thompson told Invest:. He also spoke about the increased student interest in offerings from the school, positioning the college for future long-term success and identifying the issues that need to be addressed in higher education.
What was one of the major successes for the college in 2019?
In December 2019, we opened the Sarasota Art Museum, which is a part of Ringling College. It is built on the site of a historic high school from 1926 located right in the middle of Sarasota. We took it over because the school system was trying to find a use for it and we were looking for space for a museum. We were able to turn it into a contemporary art museum and a space for continuing studies and lifelong learning. This project has been a long time in the making, so we are quite pleased to have this as part of our campus.
Where are you seeing the most growth in terms of student interest?
We have seen growth in our virtual reality major and have launched a new major in entertainment design. We are also seeing a huge increase in the number of students who are interested in the Collaboratory. The idea of the Collaboratory is to help our students get real-world experience working with real-world clients. We invite clients to the institution and put together teams of students who work to help solve some of the problems that clients might be having. It is a wonderful tool for the clients, and it’s great for the students because they are getting to work with real people. The projects they are working on also have true meaning. I like to tell people that one of the great advantages for our students is that it helps with the recent college graduate dilemma: They can’t get a job if they don’t have experience, but they can’t get experience if they don’t have a job. The Collaboratory gives them that experience.
How is the college working to change the perception of art as a career?
As an art and design college, we are fully committed to shattering the myth of the starving artist. Too many people have this feeling that art and design are more of a hobby than a career and that there are no real careers out there. This has never been true and it is certainly not true in today’s society. We focus on making certain that our students, when they graduate, have great careers. Over 100 national and international companies recruit here. These are corporations like Apple, Google, Pixar and Disney. The world has changed so much, having become a much more visual world. This has created more opportunities than ever before for artists and designers.
How are you positioning the college for future long-term success?
We have to look at what the future holds, especially in this age of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is just in the early stages but many different jobs are going to be eliminated once it takes off. We also need to be looking at where the economy is headed. Everyone needs to be positioned for the next stage, which we are calling the Creative Age. In history, we have had the Agricultural Age, the Industrial Age and the Technology Age. The Creative Age is next because creativity is going to become one of the most essential skill sets people are going to need for success in the future. I believe this is already starting to be recognized on a global scale.
What do you view as the most significant challenges facing higher education?
There are numerous challenges facing higher education, especially private nonprofit institutions. The whole basis for the business model needs to be rethought and recreated in some manner because being so tuition-dependent is not sustainable over the long term. Tuition is at such a high level that it is almost out of reach for many people, which leads to a huge issue with students having the ability to attend a school like ours. We are doing many things to mitigate this, such as offering financial aid and scholarships, which are among our greatest fundraising needs. Every college is trying to solve the problem of the business model.
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