COLUMBIA — The MU College of Education announced this week it will suspend admissions to its undergraduate art education program effective this fall.
Current MU sophomores, juniors and seniors will be able to complete the program by May 2016 if they have been accepted into the program and continue to meet or exceed minimum graduation requirements, according to a news release from the College of Education.
The art education program has had the smallest number of graduates in all of the college’s undergraduate areas throughout the past five years, according to the news release.
"While the faculty has worked hard to increase enrollments, the number of graduates still averages fewer than 10 each year," College of Education Dean Daniel Clay said in the release. "These types of decisions are never easy, but with limited state resources, we have decided to focus on our post-baccalaureate certification and graduate programs in art education."
Kathy Unrath, MU associate professor of art education, said in an email these undergraduate enrollment numbers do not represent the total number of art educators who are certified each year.
They do not include a strong contingent of graduate students who are earning a master of education with certification degree, she said.
"We are hearing that when budgets need to be cut, arts are expendable," Unrath said. "I care so much about the quality of the century-old art education program at MU ... yet the official response that my students are getting from the university when they write in support of the art education program is 'I assure you that art education is alive and well at Mizzou.'"
Sharyn Hyatt-Wade, MU adjunct instructor of art education and a former art teacher at Rock Bridge High School, said she thinks the College of Education got the numbers wrong when looking for small programs to cut.
"Our program isn't nearly as small as the numbers that they are putting out there," Hyatt-Wade said. "We're concerned that the decision is being made with false data."
In the release, Clay said it is important to note that the art education program isn’t closing at MU and that the college remains committed to art education.
"We continually evaluate and assess all of our programs as part of our responsibility to be good stewards of our resources," Clay said. "Going forward, we will monitor a number of factors in determining whether to lift that suspension."
Current MU freshmen or undergraduate students applying for admission in the fall have two options to pursue art education at MU, according to the release. Students may:
- earn a bachelor of fine arts degree through the MU College of Arts and Science and then pursue a teacher certification in the MU College of Education through a post-baccalaureate certification program.
- choose to pursue a master’s degree in art education with certification requirements.
All four art teachers at Rock Bridge High School are alumni of the MU art education program, said Carrie Stephenson, foundations of art and advanced art teacher at Rock Bridge.
"You've got students who are so passionate about what we do and what they do as artists that they would love to go join this field," Stephenson said of current Rock Bridge art students. "It's just a shame that we're no longer going to be able to tell them, 'Hey, Mizzou has this amazing, life-changing program that's consistently doing some of the things that are on the forefront of art education, but sorry, it's not there anymore.'"
Stephenson said she has former art students who are now MU freshmen who will have to pause and reassess whether they will have to transfer universities.
"It's crushing for them," Stephenson said. "We used to really pride ourselves in being in a community that supports the art, at a university that supports the arts, and to have them cancel that type of program, I feel like it's sort of them making a statement that maybe we don't have the advocacy for the arts and the arts in schools that we thought we did."
Stephenson also said she fears this decision will interrupt the MU master's program, as it will break the cycle of art education in the community. It will then have an effect on the art programs in elementary and secondary schools, she said.
Caitlin Casey, a 2003 graduate of Rock Bridge, said she greatly benefited from the high school art program, which has relied on the students and infrastructure of the MU art education program.
"Taking away the art education program at MU runs the risk of stripping away the rich world of K-12 art education in mid-Missouri," Casey said in an email. "Even though I'm now a scientist by training, I could not have reached half of the career hurdles had my artistic skills (not) been fostered so intensely by the wonderful teachers and student teachers involved with MU art education."
Without her experience in the Rock Bridge art program, Lauren Orscheln said she would not be a successful artist today.
Now living in New York City and attending the School of Visual Arts, Orscheln said her work, which has been featured in Business Insider, started as ideas during her advanced placement art class in her senior year of high school.
"I owe much of my artistic success to that year" and especially to her art teacher, Hyatt-Wade, Orscheln said in an email. "Had I landed in any other art program, or in no art program at all, my young mind would not have been able to focus its creative drives."
An online petition, "Reinstate the Undergraduate Art Education Program at MU," calls for the College of Education to reconsider its decision. The petition had 454 signatures as of Tuesday evening. A Facebook page, Save Mizzou Art Ed, had 2,982 likes as of Tuesday evening.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.