August 4, 2008

Marshall Fine Arts Focus on Interdiscipllinary Skills

By Darst, Paul

HUNTINGTON - Most people probably wouldn't think of a fine arts student as a valued member of the staff at a bank.

But times are changing, and the Marshall University College of Fine Arts is changing with them. A new way of thinking is driving the college to start new courses of study designed to allow its students to work with people in other disciplines, said Byron Clerex, chairman of the Department of Art and Design.

"We offered a 3-D animation course this summer." he said. "It was a response to the demands the students were making. It focused on 3- D modeling, Web site and game design."

Another facet of the new program was new media: film and video and how they can be used in Web page and video game design. He said those concepts can be applied to nearly any industry today.

"This program connects (COFA) with the integrated science and technology programs." he said. "It's a partnership. We share a lot of aspects (of curriculum) and students."

The new program brings together the technical side and the creative side, Clercx said.

"We're trying to make the curriculum more purposeful," he said. "Students could tailor their degrees and take courses of interest to them.

Fine arts students would be more marketable in the work force as a result, Clercx said. Because students would have studied both the technical and creative aspects of Web page design, for example, they would be more appealing to employers.

Although the 3-D animation course taught by Professor Brent Patterson is not yet a regular part of the curriculum, the overall philosophy has been in place for a while, Clercx said.

"It's part of Dr. (Stephen J.) Kopp's interdisciplinary vision," he said. "... The interdisciplinary spectrum is the ideal climate for learning. It gives students a myriad of ways to approach problem solving."

The interdisciplinary approach to higher education is overtaking more traditional approaches today. Clercx said.

"Under the interdisciplinary umbrella, students ...are better prepared. They can get the best from each program. It's enriching the intellectual output of our graduates.

"It's a paradigm change. We're recognizing how people problem solve. That's how the global markets are evolving. We need to leave the academy model and go toward the interdisciplinary model if were going to be germane."

Employers today are interested in just those types of workers, Clercx said. Fine arts students can get a taste of that world through internships that put their interdisciplinary skills to the test.

"They get real world experience," he said. "They have good listening skills and good layout skills.

"Sometimes companies see how those students can fit into their business. And students can see how they can fit into a company. It gives them confidence to go out into the real world."

And the college is committed to continuing the march toward interdisciplinary programs, Clercx said. COFA Dean Donald Van Horn has been working toward that goal.

"(Van Horn) makes it possible." Clercx said. "... This is student- driven. We want to provide them with the best possible experience.'

Copyright State Journal Corporation Jul 18, 2008

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