28 September 2007

Request for Entitlement to Plan

Bachelor of Fine Arts Major (with emphasis) at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse


This request seeks to create a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) major (with an emphasis) in the Department of Art (School of Arts and Communication, College of Liberal Studies).  This residential, on-campus program would draw upon existing studio disciplines as emphasis areas.  The desired start date for this program is Fall 2008, with an invitation for student portfolio reviews scheduled for Spring 2008.


1.  Need for program, data on student demand and market demand


An art major (B.A. or B.S.) has existed at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for several decades.  The Department of Art also offers an art minor, a photography minor, and a major in Art Education.  The department has a total enrollment of 198 students (as of September 2007).  At present, 39 credits are required for the art major (54 credits in art are required for Art Education majors).  The department offers courses in 8 distinct studio areas:  Ceramics, Drawing, Graphic Design, Jewelry/Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, and Sculpture.  An external review conducted in March 2007 indicated that, with minor curricular revisions, the department possesses the necessary structure and staffing to create a B.F.A. program. 

Department assessment of students applying to graduate school indicated the need for a more extensive array of studio and art history credits at the undergraduate level.  This need has been observed over a ten-year period.  In a 2007 survey of current majors in the department,   69% of students responded that they would likely apply to a Bachelor of Fine Arts program if one were offered at UW-La Crosse.  Students in our program have typically completed an additional two semesters in order to achieve the equivalent of a B.F.A. for graduate school admissions.  Faculty have assumed mentoring roles above and beyond their assigned teaching loads to accommodate these highly motivated students.

The program would integrate existing photography courses more fully into the existing B.A./B.S. art degree as well as the B.F.A.  The same survey of our current major revealed overwhelming support (95%) for this integration.  The B.F.A. would expand the other technology-oriented (graphic design) courses currently offered at UW-L and eliminate some duplication of course content at between photography and graphic design at the 200-level.

The 2007 student survey also revealed a strong interest in including relevant business courses in the major (B.F.A.)., particularly marketing.  The department has initiated a dialogue with the College of Business Administration (CBA; specifically, the Marketing department) to discuss what business courses might be applicable to the major.  As a parallel, the School of Arts and Communication (SAC) is in the process of exploring another collaboration between CBA and SAC:  a minor in Arts Management.


2.      Learning outcomes and curriculum overview


The reviewer’s recommended curricular revisions included:  some restructuring of Foundations courses, establishing pre-requisite consistency, extension of new upper level courses, and seeking inclusion of art history courses within General Education.

Within the last 15 years, photography was added to the Department of Art curriculum as a result of restructuring within the college (photography was formerly housed in the Department of Mass Communications).  A photography minor has existed on this campus for many years.  Although photography as a discipline is housed in the Department of Art, only one photography course counts toward the major. This proposal would allow for broader inclusion of photography, along with other studio disciplines in the B.F.A.  (A broader inclusion of photography is also planned for the B.A./B.S.).  The photography minor would remain essentially unchanged, although the proposed curriculum does not permit the same courses to count toward both the photography minor and the art major. Many students have chosen a photography minor in addition to their art major (in Fall 2007, 25% of all photography minors were art majors).  The total credits in this major/minor structure resembles credit requirements for a B.F.A.  Due to the intensive nature of the B.F.A., and the number of credits for completion, it is desired that the requirement for a minor be waived, as it is for students in the Art Education major on this campus.


Program learning outcomes would include:

  • Prepare students for professional practice in studio art through course content, portfolio development, internships, and exhibition experience
  • Enhance expectation in the promotion of excellence in the visual arts
  • Develop critical thinking skills and research design methods applicable to the studio disciplines
  • Engage in professional and scholarly writing through the department’s Writing in the Major Program
  • Expand and implement richer learning opportunities and experience in the global context
  • Provide greater opportunities for service encompassing a variety of relevant experiences


3.  Relation to institutional mission, strategic plan, goals and objectives


         The Department of Art adopted the goal to establish a B.F.A. program one year ago, with an expected implementation of 2009 or earlier.  The creation of a B.F.A. curriculum has been discussed for several years, most recently at a 2005 faculty retreat and during external reviews in 2004 and 2007.  The department has received support from the College of Liberal Studies deans to pursue the new program.  There are at least two goals (articulated in the university’s strategic plan) that would be addressed through this program.  One is the “creation of a stronger academic community of learning and inquiry both locally and globally.”  Access to international study opportunities is a key component of the proposed B.F.A. program.  Study abroad courses are part of the existing curriculum and will be enhanced with the B.F.A.  A second goal, to “Create a culture where there are high expectations for students and faculty in the areas of academics, scholarship and creative activity, and service,” is also addressed through this program.  A B.F.A. program would involve higher expectations for both students and faculty in each of the above areas, with particular emphasis and value on creative inquiry and studio production.

The department will seek to increase the diversity of its faculty and students, increase access to the B.F.A. program for low income students, and enhance its current level of excellence in academics and creativity.  The department has plans to begin fundraising for a merit-based and need-based scholarship for prospective B.F.A. students.  All of these endeavors are consistent with the UW-L agenda for growth and continued excellence in the arts.


4.  Relation to other academic programs


The Department of Art at UW-La Crosse maintains a balanced curriculum in visual art, including both fine (drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture) and applied/craft (ceramics, graphic design, jewelry/metals, photography) arts.  The collective strength of the program and the array of existing courses in each of these areas suggest the potential for a program that offers students ample choices for emphases.

Research was conducted as to the structure and requirements of art programs within the UW-System.  Table 1 indicates program data for each campus studied.  Of all 11 System comprehensive universities, 4 (including UW-La Crosse) do not offer the B.F.A.  Comparisons have been made with other state and regional institutions that offer art degrees.  At neighboring Viterbo University, a B.F.A. is offered, but Viterbo students pay substantially higher tuition. Viterbo offers fewer studio emphasis areas, due in part to a smaller number of faculty. Neither St. Mary’s University nor Winona State offer a B.F.A.  There is a substantial lack of access to B.F.A. programs in this geographic region (encompassing Southwest Wisconsin, Southeast Minnesota, and Northeast Iowa).  As part of this program proposal, data collecting has involved further comparisons with like institutions in the Midwest.  Please also see Table 2:  Curriculum Comparisons of Comprehensive Midwestern Universities.