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New Department of Technology, Art and Design: Departments Merge to Preserve

Sara Wielenberg | Staff Writer | 4-5-2012

Photo by: Patrick Rudlang

The Department of Technological Studies and the Department of Visual Arts officially merged on March 26 to create the Department of Technology, Art and Design (DTAD).

This merge is one of the effects of the recalibration process. Like many humanities departments, the departments of Technological Studies and Visual Arts lost faculty members in the cuts. Technological Studies had four positions removed and Visual Arts lost two. In order to preserve the departments, the remaining faculty came up with the idea of merging. While there is still much work to be done in regards to implementing a new curriculum, the new department presses forward.

Although the merger of these two departments may seem unnatural to some, chair of the DTAD, Dr. Jim McCracken says, “The process was a bit of a natural.”

The Bachelor of Science degree in Design Technology already had faculty and courses from both original departments. “There was a good, positive linkage between the two departments,” says McCracken.

The faculty from both departments is working on this merge, which McCracken finds encouraging. “It’s great to see everyone working on this,” he says.

The initiative began in spring 2011 shortly after the cuts were proposed. “The faculty wanted to be proactive, and start as soon as we could,” says McCracken. The departments began meeting as a combined department in August. “We’ve been operating as a single department since August, and are busy with all the details,” says McCracken.

The combining of these departments could not occur without some cuts to programs. The Technological Studies Department had to cut seven Bachelors and Masters programs along with a minor. Visual Arts lost a BFA in Art, BS in Art Education, and the Art minor. In DTAD, four degrees will be offered: BS in Art and Design, BS in Industrial Technology, BAS in Applied Engineering, and BAS in Technology Management. While the other degrees are already in existence, the BS in Art and Design is a proposed program that will basically take the place of Design Technology and have many of the same elements. Specializations are also being reworked in the remaining degrees, and the emphases are being combined or minimized. “They’ll be broader and a little smaller,” says McCracken.

The majors were selected based on the sizes of the programs as well as the expertise of the remaining faculty, but the number of students in each major was the biggest factor in choosing the degrees. “The programs are extremely popular programs, and the ones left are successful, with a high degree of placement,” says McCracken.

Right now, the departments are in transition to this new department.  The faculty is working with students in the programs that are being cut to find alternative courses or getting the students set up with teach out programs.

The curriculums of offered courses are undergoing a lot of change to accommodate the loss of other degrees and the reduction from 128 credits to 120. Curriculum changes must go through a series of approval steps that take quite some time. The faculty submitted some new course curriculums last year and more this year, but all are still working their way through the system. “Some changes have tentatively been made already,” says McCracken. While curriculums are being approved, the department is able to offer a certain number of experimental courses to test out the new curriculums.

Another thing that the new department is concerned with right now is the space available. “Both departments,” says McCracken, “utilize extensive lab facilities, which presents an extra challenge to manage and organize.” They are in the process of analyzing their available space and considering what spaces could be consolidated.

The faculty is working closely with the students to prepare them and guide them through this big transition. About a month ago, they had a gathering to promote the new department and to reassure the students about the future. Another thing they are doing is group-advising sessions to explain course options to students.

Faculty will have to adjust to the new curriculum and larger class sizes. Their workload will change since the courses will cover different material. With fewer faculty members, they can expect to be teaching a greater variety of topics.

“We could be teaching things we haven’t in a while,” says McCracken.

In the face of cuts, the merging of the two departments is one way to preserve some of the programs of study at BSU. The goal of the merge, says McCracken, is to “maintain a quality program that is attractive and beneficial to students.”