Recent article that bashes the Art Department is incorrect
| Gretchen Burns reporter |
Recently, the Atlantic, a collegiate source, released a list of colleges and universities that were the biggest waste of money in the United States. An art degree from Pittsburg State University ranked at number 10.
The information from the story was based on a report from the online service PayScale, that concludes high school graduates would make significantly more money over a lifetime if they chose to go straight to work rather than pursuing certain college majors.
Rhona Shand and other veteran academic researchers on the PSU campus looked closer at the study and found several problems and inaccuracies.
“It makes a sexy headline and plays into some common misconceptions, but it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the career opportunities available for art majors or graduates of many other programs,” said Shand, chairperson of Pittsburg State University’s Department of Art.
Recent graduate DeAnna Morgan felt that the article slammed itself by using limited information that hardly applied to a percentage of Pittsburg State students.
“I was hired to the Wellsville Unified School District 289 one week from my graduation as the Middle and High School Art Teacher, Art Club Sponsor, Senior Class Sponsor, and Assistant Softball Coach. My degree screams art teacher, if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t have been hired,” said Morgan 2013 graduate. “Sadly, the article comes back on Porter Hall and their credentials as being valuable and worth students’ money.”
The author from the article in the Atlantic acknowledges a number of conditions.
According to Shand, the original PayScale article is clearer than the Atlantic about the limitations of the study. Those limitations make the data useless because it lumps together a wide number of programs under the general heading ‘Arts.’
“These aren’t just art majors they’re talking about,” Shand said. “It’s students in upwards of a dozen programs across campus.”
The data itself excludes any graduate who has gone on to earn a degree higher than a Bachelors and includes only graduates working in the United States. It excludes any graduate who is self-employed, project-based or is a contract employee. Small-business owners and/or contract-based graphic designers would be excluded.
Shand listed of Art Department Alumni who have been highly successful but would not have been included in the PayScale report including a graphic designer for the Kansas City Chiefs, a production artist for Hallmark, the owner of an independent illustration company, an editor of a national magazine and a local business owner who was recently named the small-business owner of the year for the State of Kansas.
I cannot say anything but positive comments about the faculty and staff in the Art Department at Pittsburg State. If it weren’t for my professors, I wouldn’t be the Art Educator that I am today,” said Morgan. “They taught me history, creativity, color theory, design, technical skill, hard work, dedication, professionalism, and passion for what I love most. That is a debt that I can never repay- unlike student loans. Therefore, Pittsburg State and my Art Education degree are incredibly valuable.”
After reading the article, Janelle Cowan felt that everyone was entitled to their own opinion and whether or not the person though thought that an art degree was a waste of time, no one is forced to major in art.
“My degree was worth every penny. I would not have the career I have now without my degree. I was given a gift from God, the ability to create artwork, and thats the best way I can make a difference,” said Cowan 2013 PSU Art graduate and a composition designer at Ward Kraft Inc. “I love creating art and nearly every class at PSU taught me something about what I am doing today. Whether it be technical skills, design, composition, or simply how to work hard in order to succeed.”
Shand is used to answering questions about employment opportunities and usually meets with skepticism about the value of a fine arts degree and said that the questions about the value of the arts in education are not unusual, especially during certain times.
Shand mentioned the data that shows graduates who earned a degree in art or other artist programs are just the kind of employees a lot of businesses are looking for and quoted the Governors’ commission on the Arts in Education.
“The Creative Economy…relies upon people who can think creatively, adapt quickly to new situations, and problem solve. This industry, which is growing at a faster pae than total U.S. business growth, increases the demand for workers with the skills that are gained through the arts in education.”
Alana Utterback is a graduate of the PSU Art Department who is further her education in Fine Arts.
“I graduated in 2013 and I’m currently enrolled in the Art Therapy Counseling Graduate Program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I am one of ten students, chosen from 70 applicants, that was invited to attend next fall,” said Utterback. “I had to go through a two day interview process, show my credentials and have 3 letters of recommendations. I owe everything to my professors and education that I’ve received. If I hadn’t have had that, I wouldn’t have even been chosen for the interview process.”
Although the Atlantic article portrays an inaccurate picture of art education, Shand is not losing sleep over it.
Shand said that compared to the other schools who were one the list, she felt it was a good list to be on.
“Really it comes down to HOW you want to use the knowledge you learn, and the attitude you have about it. I am proud of my degree, and the hard work and time I sacrificed to receive it,” said Cowan. “If you are passionate about something, and are willing to put in countless hours, and years of your life towards achieving it, then do it. But do it for you, don’t listen to what others say about it, because chances are they wouldn’t have it in them to receive it anyhow.”