School of Art sees growth in enrollment, credits recruitment efforts

Alexandra Sobczak

Despite Kent State’s overall drop in enrollment this fall, the School of Art experienced an enrollment increase of nearly 23 percent.

There are 360 undergraduate students in the school this fall, 82 more than in Fall 2017.

According to 15-day enrollment statistics, Kent State’s main campus saw a nearly 3 percent decrease in overall undergraduate enrollment compared to last fall.

“There’s a number of initiatives that we want to do … and the best way to do that is to bring in new students,” said Marie Bukowski, the director of the School of Art.

When Bukowski started at Kent State in Fall 2017, the School of Art’s enrollment had been down. She credits recruitment efforts for the recent enrollment increase.

“We decided that we wanted to take some new paths to try to recruit,” Bukowski said. “We started to implement new things, taking some things that we had already done in the past and just enhance them a little bit.”

This year, the School of Art is increasing its number of visits to local high schools.

Linda Hoeptner-Poling, the School of Art’s undergraduate coordinator, gives presentations to high school students in Northeast Ohio. She talks to students during the school day, and in the evening, she interacts with the parents and caregivers who can attend.

Her presentation focuses on what Kent State has to offer and dispells common misconceptions about the “starving artist persona” and getting an art degree.

“A high schooler needs to know that not only is a life in the arts possible, (but) it’s a life in which they can thrive and have a very fulfilling, satisfying life,” Hoeptner-Poling said.

Hoeptner-Poling also tells high school students about the off-campus arts community in Kent, such as the KSU Downtown Gallery where the School of Art presents exhibitions. In addition, the art education program has students teaching at different locations such as a juvenile detention center, an assisted living center and a homeless shelter.

Next year, Hoeptner-Poling hopes to expand her reach beyond Northeast Ohio high schools to the Columbus area.

The School of Art also engages in multiple on-campus recruitment efforts. There are scheduled tours on Fridays throughout the semester led by current students who share information based on their first hand experience.

“When they started the Student Art Leader (tours), they were trying to give incoming students a student perspective,” said Molly McDevitt, a senior art education major and a Student Art Leader. “I am … helping students figure out if this is the place for them. That’s really exciting to me.”

If prospective students cannot attend one of the scheduled tour dates, Hoeptner-Poling said she will give students a one-on-one tour another date.

On Kent State’s Golden Flash Days, the School of Art opens its studio space to prospective art students. On these days during spring semester, students who have been accepted to Kent State but not yet confirmed they will attend can make a piece of art and take it home.

The School of Art professors will review prospective students’ portfolios Nov. 2 as a part of its Portfolio Review Day. On this day, students will receive a tour, attend the First Friday Lecture and have a 15-minute one-on-one critique with a professor. The event is open to any artist level.

The School of Art is also working to become more cross-disciplinary by reaching out to other parts of campus to help graduates become as marketable as possible, such as with the introduction of an art entrepreneur minor next fall.

Hoeptner-Poling believes the minor will attract more students and said it will help students be business-minded in addition to being creative, especially if they want to be professional artists. Due to safety concerns, limited equipment and a value placed on one-on-one attention, the School of Art keeps its class sizes small. If enrollment continues to increase, courses will have more sections offered rather than a longer roster, Bukowski said.

The budget would determine whether more faculty would be hired. At the current rate of increased enrollment, the School of Art plans to remain as selective and inclusive as it has in the past.

“The arts have always been … a vibrant component of Kent State and the larger community,” Hoeptner-Poling said. “And I think the better job we do at getting that message out, the better our enrollment will be.”

Alexandra Sobczak is the art and architecture reporter. Contact her at [email protected]