For most of the past decade, colleges across the country have seen a dramatic increase in the popularity of continuing studies programs -- those courses designed to lure adults back to the campus either for personal enrichment or professional development.
Like most other campuses, the Maryland Institute, College of Art had such a program, although it was run quietly and informally, notes Dr. Mark Neustadt. He is the energetic young expert whom the Institute lured away from his job as assistant director of the continuing studies department at Johns Hopkins University. His mission: make the College of Art's Office of Continuing Studies into a "state of the art" program.
Noting that the Maryland Institute "has an unchallenged reputation for its fine art instruction and is recognized nationally as one of handful of fine art colleges," he decided there was little wrong with the curriculum. Instead, Dr. Neustadt instituted changes such as offering registration by telephone, rewriting the catalog to make course descriptions clearer, and reducing the number of hours a week students would have to spend in a classroom to complete their work.
He also forged several key relationships with professional art organizations in the area, guaranteeing a supply of students and, for good measure, added a wider variety of course offerings.
Last fall, after a year's worth of groundwork, the revamped programs accepted their first students, and enrollments were up by 16 percent. "No college these days can afford not to make its case in continuing studies," he says. "A lot more adults are looking for it, and it has become a more professional area than 20 years ago. All schools are seeing an enormous benefit of continuing studies."
Not that the students themselves don't get something out of it, he adds. One of the changes he made in the Institute's continuing studies program was to offer a wider variety of fine arts instruction. The catalog thus includes studio classes in painting, drawing, photography, print making, work with fibers and three dimensional sculpture.
Another popular change has been in the length of those studio classes. Traditionally, a studio class requires twice as much time as a regular liberal arts classroom course. It meant that an adult who wanted to take art courses in the evening would be there from the dinner hour up to 11 p.m.
"I felt that was too much," said Dr. Neustadt, who has reduced those evening classes to two credit hours each. "Money isn't that important to most adults," he said. "Time is. If they commit to time and it isn't responsive, they will just leave. They won't come." He further offered abbreviated versions of some courses that could be fit into non-credit weekend workshops.
In addition to the offerings in the fine arts field, the continuing studies program has a full listing of courses for design professionals. In fact, one of the goals of the revamped program, said Dr. Neustadt, is to keep close contact with graduates in the design field, where innovations such as computer assisted graphics have made it a continually changing profession.
"Although the Maryland Institute has trained a vast majority of the graphic designers working in the region," he said, "there has been very little contact with them once they leave school. There has been very little in the way of professional development."
Since his arrival, the Institute has formed alliances with three organizations -- the American Institute of Graphic Artists, the American Society of Interior Designers and the American Institute of Architects, and with their cooperation offers members updated courses in the design fields.
Included are several courses that relate to the field of architecture, and are offered by the Institute's newly established Center for Architecture and Interior Design. While the Institute does not train architects, it will offer introductory courses for adults considering such a career. These courses -- including Architectural Design and Drafting, Drawing for Architects and Interior Designers and Watercolors for Architects and Interior Designers -- are intended also to appeal to professionals whose careers may overlap in the architectural areas.
For more information, call 225-2219.