VMA department downsizes due to scarce resources

by Gabriella Mrozowski / Beacon Correspondent • September 14, 2017

The college accepted fewer visual and media arts students this year due to limited faculty and campus resources. Chair of the VMA Department Brooke Knight said the number of VMA students in the class of 2021 has continued a deliberate downward trend that started in 2016.

“Four years ago, I recognized that there was a significant increase in the total number of VMA majors,” he said. “The proportion of VMA students to the rest of the college was increasing and it’s never good to focus too much on one area.” 

The number of students in the VMA majors themselves had grown about 500 students in a six-year culmination period. This increase proved to be strenuous on the budget, Knight said. 

“[The number of students] also impacted resources that we have available to us in terms of space and equipment,” Knight said. “The resource demand was increasing, but the amount of resources that we had available to us was staying the same.” 

According to documents provided by Vice President of Enrollment Ruthanne Madsen, VMA enrollment increased steadily from fall 2012 to fall 2015 when a record high of 491 students enlisted in the department. This year’s class is comprised of 420 students, according to the same document. 

“This year, [VMA is] 35 percent of the incoming class, whereas just two years ago, it was 45 percent,” she said. 

Madsen said by accepting fewer VMA students the college could accept more communications students. 

“It’s really diversification of support,” she said. “You want to make sure you’re supporting all the areas in your portfolio. [The decision] was ensuring... that we truly are arts and communication, and we’re focusing on both areas.” 

Knight said that the department staying at the same size as this year would be ideal. 

“I’m hoping that the next two years are the same size as the last two years of incoming classes,” Knight said. “In a couple of years, we’ll be in a really good level that is sustainable for us in the foreseeable future.” 

Knight said he is happy with how the change is working out and the smooth process of approving the decision. 

“This a really good example of the [upper administration and the] college working together overall to make sure we all provide the best education we can for our students. That’s what it's about at the end of the day,” he said. 

Freshman visual and media arts major Isa González-Tenga said the new enrollment rate will help her work with people who are really committed. 

“If you’re in a collaborative environment, and there are too many ideas floating around, it can be overwhelming,” González-Tenga said. “It’s nice to have a smaller, tight-knit group of people.”