Budget cuts to education have sent universities nationwide into a state of concern. With money becoming scarce, schools are given no other choice but to release programs that are not deemed to be absolutely crucial to their curriculum. The University of Missouri is no different and has recently been faced with its own wave of cuts, specifically to the College of Education.
At the center of this turmoil lies MU’s art education undergraduate program. The program is currently suspended due to rumored budget cuts and low enrollment. The program dates back to 1909, and was one of the first established in the nation.
“The art education program is nationally recognized and its faculty members have received numerous MU, state and national awards,” said Kathy Unrath, director of the MU art education program and associate professor of Art Education. “It is an impressive program in which to study visual art and design education. The MU art education program has a reputation of developing extraordinary artist teachers who are sought after by school districts across Missouri and across the country.”
Unrath was chosen by the Department of Learning Teaching and Curriculum in the College of Education to lead the program in 2002. Since then, she has watched the program excel, hosting a variety of notable symposiums and conferences throughout the year. She is passionate about her field and thoroughly enjoys having the opportunity to influence young teachers and scholars.
According to Unrath, current freshman enrolled in the program must either choose another field of study or transfer to a different institution if they wish to continue studying art education. This is incredibly disappointing to her as well as to the remaining art education faculty members. However, those who have sophomore standing or higher can continue with the program until graduation. Graduate students may also continue to pursue their degrees regardless of the suspension.
“People need to understand the importance of the arts,” said freshman Ashlie Elver. “It’s unfortunate that the university has chosen to overlook the self-expression and collaboration provided by art education.”
Elver credits the arts to helping shape her into the young woman she is today. Throughout high school she was enrolled in a variety of programs and classes geared towards preparing her to one-day study art or design. After a variety of major changes and almost transferring schools to pursue design, Elver has decided to remain at MU. She is now enrolled in pre-med, but still credits her creative mindset to her artistic background.
Sophomore Health Sciences major, Paige Peterman is an avid supporter of the Save Art Ed movement. She has followed the movement from the beginning and is ecstatic at the amount of encouragement the effort has gained. Save Mizzou Art Ed now has a Facebook page with nearly 4,000 likes from supportive students and family members. Students are also encouraged to send tweets using the hash tags #SaveMizzouArtEd, #MUArtEdMatters, and #artsaveslives to show their support of program efforts.
“It’s unbelievable,” Peterman said. “I plan to do everything I can as a student to try to preserve the program.”
Abbey Trescott, Rock Bridge High School’s art teacher, is an alumnus of the program and has an art education certification and master’s degree. Trescott earned her undergraduate degree in journalism but later realized that a career change was necessary to pursue her passion of creativity and teaching.
“MU prides itself on being a progressive teaching university, but by cutting one of the education programs, how can they uphold that reputation?” Trescott said. “Not just that, but they are losing potential students.”
As a teacher, Trescott has witnessed first-hand the effects of the arts on Columbia and Columbia public schools.
“If we cut the program, the long-term effects on our community and our public schools will be greater than most are considering,” Trescott said. “Not only that, but very few universities in Missouri offer an arts education certification program where students are receiving art education-specific training from freshman year on.”
Trescott knows a number of Rock Bridge students who had planned to pursue a degree in art education, who are now stranded and confused about where to turn next. These students are currently forced to chose between MU and their desired career path, further affecting MU enrollment. Trescott is hopeful that a solution to lift the suspension can be accomplished not only for the sake of the university, but also for the education of its students.
“I would like to think that in the future, this decision will not be a final one, Trescott said. “I hope that with enough support for art education at MU from the community and both current students and alumni, that our beloved program will be reinstated and can become the home to many more students as it has been for me.”