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Art History expands program and becomes a designated major

The School of Art and Design’s art history program has seen significant changes in the past two years, including the creation of a designated major, the addition of new courses, and the hiring of new faculty members.


Associate professor Erina Duganne began working to create a major in art history in Fall 2006. Six and a half years later, her hard work paid off. In Spring 2013, the School of Art and Design began offering a B.A. in art history, replacing the previous B.A. in art with a specialization in art history.


Although the original curriculum requirements for the new degree were the same as those for the old degree, the change was significant. Michael Niblett, director of the School of Art and Design, noted that having an art history degree listed in the curriculum is crucial to attracting students who already know that they want to major in art history. Additionally, students graduating with the old degree and wanting to pursue graduate studies in art history, as well as those seeking certain museum positions, found that having a degree not specifically labeled as B.A. in art history was a disadvantage.


Student demand and their testimony were important factors in gaining approval for the major. “I’m really pleased that I could do this for the students,” Duganne told The University Star, and given student input into the process, she said, “I think they really feel a sense of ownership of this degree as well.”


With a new degree in place, the art history faculty has worked to refine and expand the curriculum in ways that will ready art history majors for professional careers and graduate studies. Considering the importance of writing to the discipline of art history, and the writing skills needed for careers related to the field, the faculty added Art Criticism and Writing (ART 3300) as a requirement for all majors. They also added a special topics course on Curatorial Practices (ARTH 4320B), an elective that will help prepare students who are interested in pursuing a career at an art museum or related institution. In addition, with the Art History Internship course (ARTH 4325), majors are able to arrange a museum, gallery, or other art history-related internship for academic credit, gaining useful professional experience as part of the degree.


Another opportunity critical to the major is the School of Art and Design’s month-long study abroad program that takes places every summer in Florence, Italy. This intense, immersive experience gives art history students the opportunity to study Italian art and architecture up close and in person. “By the end,” explains senior lecturer and past director of the program Alan Pizer, “our majors develop an informed understanding of the relationship between cultural context and elements of style and iconography that is not nearly as attainable within a classroom setting.”


In the past two years, the University has shown its commitment to the art history program by doubling the number of tenure-tenure track faculty lines. In Fall 2014, the School of Art and Design hired assistant professor Jennifer Stob as a specialist in contemporary European art and cinema. In Fall 2015, assistant professor Kathryn Moore, a Renaissance specialist with a trans-Mediterranean focus, began teaching classes.


As associate professor Gina Tarver notes, “Faculty, students, and administrators are all excited about our growth, and we look forward to continued development of our art history program.”


The University Star, “Regents approve art history bachelor's degree program”.