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Interview: Michael Savas, Dean of Visual Communications, Laguna College of Art & Design

lr-self-portrait.jpgMichael Savas, Associate Professor of Art, Dean of Visual Communications at Laguna College of Art & Design, joins us today to discuss art & design education.

Tell us about the programs offered at Laguna College of Art & Design.

We offer five different BFA programs of study: Fine Art, Illustration, Animation, Graphic Design, and our newest program, Game Art. Additionally, we offer an MFA degree in Representational Painting.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

All five of our BFA programs are structured so that they can be completed within a four-year period. Our MFA program in Representational Painting is a two-year program of study.

What would you say makes Laguna College of Art & Design programs different and better than other comparable programs?

One thing that sets us apart from other art colleges is our belief in the importance of having a strong foundation program. This idea of teaching from the ground up serves to strengthen core artistic principles which enable our students to advance through our unique programs of study with efficiency, resulting in better artists. These results are evidenced by the high success rate of our graduates who find employment in their chosen fields with a large number finding work before they graduate.

How important would you say accreditation is when choosing a college or university?

The right kind of accreditation is extremely important, especially if you decide to continue on to graduate school. You want your degree to be recognized by art colleges and universities that offer accredited MA and MFA graduate programs. Accreditation insures that the highest standards are met and verified through formal reviews that examine documented evidence. On site inspections are performed along with extensive interviews with faculty, administration and students.

Laguna College of Art & Design (LCAD) is accredited by The Western Association of Schools Colleges and Universities (WASC), and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). LCAD is one of only six art colleges on the west coast that are dual accredited. Additionally, LCAD is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD).

We are proud of our latest WASC accreditation review where their report stated that LCAD should be held as a model to other art schools. Reference was made to the college being more of a "community" as opposed to just an institution. They saw strong evidence that students "find themselves" through the dedication of the faculty. Emphasis was put on the integration of the liberal arts in all we do, creating "good citizens as well as good artists and designers."

What qualities or accomplishments do you look for when admitting students to your program?

Our admissions team looks for students who have raw inherent artistic skills and a passion for creating images and solving visual problems.

We like to see a variety of work in the portfolio including basic observational drawing, figurative, design and digital work that shows creative potential.

Given the growing popularity of online degrees, what would you say are some of the benefits of a traditional classroom setting?

While distant learning programs serve important purposes in terms of convenience when communicating academic studies such as business and science, it does have some drawbacks in terms of delivering essential hands-on training important in teaching the studio arts.

At LCAD we have an average student-to-teacher ratio of about 1 to 10. This allows for more individual attention and the opportunity for understanding each student's particular challenges, strengths and progress.

LCAD currently has a total enrollment of fewer than four hundred students where faculty serve as mentors and know most of their students by name. These important relationships are difficult to develop and nurture with on-line teaching programs.

If a student enrolled in one of your programs was interested in finding an internship in their field in their area, do you have any means of assisting them in acquiring an internship position?

With major entertainment companies including animation, film, game and design studios located close by, several of our notable faculty work at these companies and bring real world experience and advise on entering these fields. Additionally, we have established industry relationships with local companies who offer internships to our students. Our Director of Career Services organizes internships to help students earn credit towards their degree while helping them acquire important on-the-job experience.

Does Laguna College of Art & Design offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

Our Director of Career Services lists weekly job opportunities and organizes an annual Industry Open House where students in their senior year meet with industry leaders who review their portfolios. This is a full day of interaction where jobs, networking and industry relationships are developed. To prepare for interviews, students take a professional studies class where they learn how to function in the professional world. Additionally we partner and collaborate with local community organizations to expose our students to a wide range of professional practices and academic experiences to better prepare them for their careers.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

LCAD participates in three federally funded grant programs: the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) programs. ?A grant is gift aid that does not have to be repaid as long as the student continues to meet all of the eligibility requirements. California State Grants ?LCAD is eligible to participate in the Cal Grant A and Cal Grant B programs that are funded by the state of California and administrated by the California Student Aid Commission. All financial aid applicants who are California residents and U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens are encouraged to apply for one of the Cal Grant programs.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling at a college or university for the first time?

Students entering college must be prepared to work hard and focus on their area of study. It's a competitive world and talent and good grades alone will not guarantee success in any field. Hard work, persistence and more importantly, commitment for their chosen field will pay off in the long run.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Laguna College of Art & Design?

As Dean of Visual Communication and Chair of the Illustration programs, I most enjoy dealing with the students. Seeing them grow intellectually and artistically is like seeing magic. I enjoy the smaller community spirit here where my door is always open. We are located in a wooded canyon cove just a few miles from the ocean and downtown Laguna Beach, and the environment couldn't be more ideal for creativity and inspiration.

Thank you Michael, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!

For more information on the art programs available at Laguna College of Art & Design, visit them online.

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