Chinese Student Enrollment Continues to Rise at SAIC and Across the USA
Illustration by Emily Haasch.
For the first time in the history of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), enrollment from Chinese students overtook enrollment from South Korea, a student population which had previously been the school’s largest international demographic. But these figures raise a larger question. What makes a US education, and an education at an art school like SAIC, so appealing to international students?
Currently there is more international enrollment at US universities than in any other country across the globe. Among these enrollments, the percentage of Chinese students is highest. Countless news media outlets like the Chronicle of Higher Education and organizations like the US nonprofit Institute of International Education (IIE) have noted over the past four years the number of students from mainland China enrolling in US institutions is rapidly increasing each year. IIE statistics show the steady growth of student enrollment from China in the US has, since 2009/2010, consistently outpaced international undergraduate and graduate enrollment rates from all other countries, even offsetting those of India and South Korea. The demographics of incoming international students at SAIC have also significantly shifted at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Rose Milkowski, SAIC’s Vice President of Enrollment Management, said out of 2013’s incoming class of nearly 230 international undergraduate and graduate students, roughly 123 are from China, while nearly 98 hail from South Korea. David Murray, Assistant Director of International Affairs noted this shift does not come as a great surprise. In his view, enrollment levels between China and South Korea at SAIC have been close for some time, though “over the last three years … I first saw something like 35 students from China. The next year it was double that and then this year it hasn’t doubled, but it has gone up by a greater amount.”
Research that was part of IIE’s “Open Doors” program reflects this. Of the 723,277 international students enrolled in US universities for the 2010/2011 academic year, 22% of these students were from mainland China. The following year this increased to 25%. Students from China now make up over a quarter of the international student population at US universities.
On the other hand, South Korean enrollment has significantly dropped, which may be due to the fact that the nation has one of the world’s lowest birthrates. In 2010 it was 1.2%. This is expected to reduce the amount of students entering secondary education significantly. Education Minister Lee Ju-ho has said this may lead to a 40% drop in South Korean university enrollment over the next 12 years. It is expected that this will affect South Korean enrollment at SAIC as well. “If you look at trends of birth rates in South Korea, you will notice that the number of high school graduates is declining,” said Milkowski. “It’s something that everyone is aware of, but we will continue to recruit in Korea.”
“The number of Chinese students has continued to grow proportionally, and that’s a world-wide thing,” said Milkowski. “China is starting to send more students out to other countries, and [SAIC has] seen an increase, as have other universities and institutions across the US.” Many observers insist this increase is due to a variety of factors. US-China Today relates it to the competitive nature of the the National Higher Education Entrance Examination or Gao Kao (高考), coupled with undeniably low admission rates for top universities within China. Marketing Manager Shaun Rein claimed in Forbes that US education has become desirable for Chinese students in contrast to what he perceives to be Chinese universities’ over-valuing of rote memorization as a learning skill. But these are speculations. SAIC administrators observe that nuanced and much more specific factors are influencing enrollment by students from mainland China.
Alum takes on new role as Student Media Manager and Advisor
Exal Iraheta with Lori Felker. Photo courtesy of Iraheta.
With the busy fall semester well underway, SAIC has welcomed back alum Exal Iraheta (BFA 2009) as Student Media Manager and Advisor. Iraheta humbly describes his new role as “a go-to position for students who have questions about rendering or editing, or equipment.” He will supervise operations for ExTV and Free Radio SAIC as well as organize Media Center authorizations and workshops. He brings his experience as a digital media artist and past experiences with the LEGO Group and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and hopes to expand the network of SAIC’s media outlets and resources.
As an undergraduate in the Film, Video and New Media Department, Iraheta worked for ExTV as station manager and was part of the ExTV and Free Radio re-launch team at that time. Working under his predecessor, Lori Felker, taught him the ropes for his new role. “I took whatever knowledge I could from her, as a student … I’m just trying to fill her shoes.” His past involvement with the programs that he now leads brings him reassurance; in terms of content and direction, he explains, “I know where we’re coming from.”
Iraheta’s position includes a new set of responsibilities in addition to advising students involved in Free Radio and ExTV: overseeing Media Center authorizations and training schedules. He will also be organizing workshops for anyone needing equipment authorizations and will schedule and hire student workers at the Center. His goal is to emphasize and communicate to students that many resources are available for them to use.
As for ExTV and Free Radio, Iraheta’s main concern is to increase exposure in order to attract more viewers and listeners. “Expanding [the outlets] from the SAIC community to the Chicago community is definitely in our goals,” he says. He believes that pursuing more exposure outside of SAIC will help students, be they artists, curators or programmers, gain experience. A few ideas to do so include making ExFEST a traveling show around Chicago, collaborating with more local galleries and theaters, working with Chicago Public Radio, and encouraging student DJs to pursue other opportunities. Other thoughts include a tutorial on using Google Analytics to manage website visitors and chances for students to produce and exhibit content online.
But before all of that, there are other priorities. “Right now, my focus is on making sure ExFEST is properly launched,” Iraheta says. This show will be the first major project for ExTV that he will be working on.
After graduating in 2009, Iraheta took his focus on tech, software and writing to the greater world. He created a YouTube channel that started with video blogs and gradually incorporated sketches into video, allowing him to get in touch with international artists. This virtual network eventually provided occasions for Iraheta to travel and meet with other artists, solidifying the importance of exposure and networks for him and his work.
While freelancing and working on these online projects, Iraheta came across an opportunity to work for the LEGO store in downtown Chicago as a full time manager. This position initially had no technological responsibilities, but primarily involved organizing, scheduling and working with young adults. He notes, “[That experience] translates to [my role at SAIC] a lot too, because I’m working with college students.”
This past summer, Iraheta worked for a few months with the MCA as a production assistant and found that experience to be quite involved. In addition to assisting with digital archiving and editing, he worked on exhibits including “Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes” and helped arrange coverage for Amanda Ross-Ho’s “THE CHARACTER AND SHAPE OF ILLUMINATED THINGS.” He was frequently in contact with artists’ managers. “It taught me a lot about how to manage art and business,” he says, “because there’s a lot of that conversation going on in museums.”
His background with both LEGO and the MCA provides skills that Iraheta will bring to his new role at SAIC. He praised Felker for her prominent role and enthusiasm in working with the students. “She did a lot for… Free Radio and ExTV, and she also did campus advising for AV equipment.” Felker’s office was always open for anyone who had questions or needed help, and he intends to do the same. “I want to keep the same mentality and philosophy about that…[while] giving everyone as much power as they can.”
SAIC Renovates Flaxman Library
Since the Flaxman Library opened in 1989, it has tremendously expanded its resources to support research and leisure at SAIC. There is now a digital catalog with a growing collection of online articles, thousands of circulating books, and audiovisual material that includes DVDs, CDs, and even 16mm film. Many of these topics are outside the subject of art as well. But despite the important presence Flaxman has at SAIC, there were still a few problems with the visitor’s experience inside the library.
The main problem was the appearance of the library interior. There is a whole wall of large windows, but the bookshelves blocked incoming light. Hence dimly lit aisles lined by the old, dusty carpet greeted you on the way in. The confusing organization of the shelves made it difficult to locate your desired book, as you find that the photography section wrapped down and around a corner instead of in consecutive rows. The DVDs and CDs were split in separate sections, and there were a limited number of outlets and plugin stations for frequent laptop users. In order to improve the visitor experience and eliminate these inconveniences, the Flaxman Library underwent a renovation this summer that changed the physical and visual layout to create a new, redesigned library space.
For this renovation, SAIC decided to work with Wheeler Kearns Architects (WKA), a firm based in the Loop just a few blocks south of the school. Ron Kirkpatrick, Executive Director of Design and Construction at SAIC, was very satisfied with the collaboration, praising the “focused, quick decisions” made to ensure success and fluidity of the project. One of the reasons SAIC chose to work with WKA was that they immediately addressed a major internal concern — rotating the bookshelves to open a view of the windows. The shelves were originally running east to west, parallel to the windows, blocking light; and the new plan placed them north to south.
All photographs by Sanglim Han
According to Flaxman Director Claire Eike, the library was regularly getting complaints about the layouts of the stacks. There were recurring suggestions from the students to rotate the stacks. Additionally, some old walls were demolished so offices and rooms could be shuffled around to make to create more room for the arranged stacks.
The individual study desks that were previously up against the windows were removed to also help filter more sunlight. To replace the old study lineup, WKA incorporated new study niches by having “the end of the stacks…staggered, creating intermittent semi-private places for study areas,” as written in their project proposal. These areas now sport newly designed furniture specifically made for use in the remodeled library.
Speed was essential for the Flaxman project. It was important the library would not have to be closed for long, a potential inconvenience for students and faculty. To meet this goal, most of construction took place during the two weeks between graduation and the start of the summer semester, which resulted in Flaxman closing down for only one week during summer school session. In the end, the whole library was demolished, constructed, and renovated in just three weeks.
Along with speed, budget was another important element in the Flaxman renovation. Kirkpatrick and SAIC Provost Elissa Tenny stressed that the renovation be completed as a low budget project not only for money’s sake, but also in an effort to push “the idea of sustainability.” As an art school that tends to lavishly use limited and sometimes harmful materials, it was important to try to reuse, recycle and modify equipment wherever possible.
There were some necessary upgrades such as increasing electrical outlets and offering more plugin stations with Ethernet cables to keep up with technological advances, as well as replacing the dusty carpet that has been on the floor since 1989. Otherwise, most of the bookshelves were reused, as well as the TVs and computers. One of the techniques to cut budget costs was what WKA called “skinning,” in which surfaces are re-finished with a vinyl film, which results in a new, polished look without having to replace any of the existing components. This skinning technique was used for the light fixtures in the library, which were otherwise mostly left untouched.
The title of the Flaxman project proposal by WKA was “Move It, Skin It, Stretch It,” and the renovation did just that. The shelves were moved to a different orientation, the lights skinned, and the library was in a sense stretched to take advantage of everything within the space. As a result, the library offers a more comprehensible system that incorporates the stacked books, DVDs, and digital media catalogue into one interdisciplinary space. As Eike said, “We can ease quietly back into the semester,” now that Flaxman has a fresh, bright and inviting environment that will guarantee a better experience for students, staff and faculty at SAIC. There is talk of additional projects for the library as well, so keep your eyes open for more improvements. And don’t forget to check out that bright green wall as you leave.
This week it was announced to the student body that SAIC’s president, Duke Reiter, has resigned after two years of holding the position. In the email sent out to every student, he was quoted as saying that, “after much thought, I have decided to return to my ongoing work linking the fields of art, design and sustainable urbanism. These issues have always been my passion and I look forward to devoting my full attention to the creation of sustainable city models on a global basis.” Although I wasn’t personally present at the Strategic Planning meeting held today by the School to discuss upcoming changes in the core values and infrastructure of SAIC, it has come to my attention that some were holding the School accountable for President Reiter’s resignation. I’m sure there are many personal reasons for his decision to resign, and while no academic institution wants their leadership position in limbo, it seems that this accusation jumps to hasty conclusions. Although not perfect – like any academic institution – SAIC is striving to involve the student body in new and upcoming decisions being made to better the infrastructure of the School. Rather than posing endless critiques and lamentations over what isn’t being done, this seems to be an appropriate time for those discontent with the School and its leadership, to voice their opinion constructively and to strive to make SAIC educate to its fullest potential.
This month the F News question is “What changes and/or improvements would you like to see at SAIC?” We want to be your sounding board. If there are things you want changed, or issues you have with the School email us at email@example.com – your response will be considered for publication in the May issue of F.
Until then – Duke, we wish you well.
–Amanda Aldinger, School News editor
SAIC hosts casting call for Sarah Jessica Parker’s new reality show
By Cynthia Pelayo
On July 16 the School of the Art Institute of Chicago hosted a casting call for “The Untitled Art Project,” a reality television series produced by Magical Elves (“Top Chef” and “Project Runway”) and Pretty Matches (Sarah Jessica Parker’s production company). The new hour-long program will feature thirteen aspiring artists who are competing against each other for the winning prize—a potential gallery exhibition, cash prize and national tour.
According to Bravo’s press material, “we want voices that believe in their art and want the world to know.” The series is tentatively scheduled to air on Bravo in the winter of 2010.
Over 500 people, including SAIC students and alumni, lined up outside of the Sullivan Galleries with portfolios in hand and hopes to advance to the next level. SAIC alumni, Michelle Maynard and Teena McClelland auditioned for the competition and had a positive experience.
“It was so much fun to stand in line and talk to people all day,” McClelland said.
Maynard and McClelland are creators of Death by Design, Co., a special effects video-based company that constructs film sets and immersive environments. When they heard about the casting call, they thought the opportunity would be the perfect place to display their talents. “In this way, the reality TV show format compliments our approach, methodology and makes us ‘Stars’ while we make other people into ‘Stars’,” said McClelland.
“We were, of course, in full-on ‘Death by Design, Co. deathface’ and connected like Siamese twins, so everyone wanted to take their picture with us.
We are pretty excited to be the characters that Death by Design allows us to be, so we felt confident and creepy all day long. For the most part we felt good and in the right place.
“I would do it all again and again,” McClelland said.
Nancy Crouch, Special Assistant to the President and Board Liaison for SAIC, said that Bravo was pleased with their choice to have SAIC host the casting call. “We gave them a space, and we helped provide screeners [admission counselors]. They were very happy that we had the expertise to see if these folks could move on to the next level,” she said.
“In terms of Chicago, it was a no-brainer to do an open casting call at The School of the Art Institute,” said Nick Gilhool, Casting Director of Magical Elves. “In terms of arts education, SAIC’s reputation is incredible. It helped us legitimize this new program. Plus, there are so many amazing people who went there, so the alumni network is very strong,” he said.
For privacy reasons, Bravo does not allow casting call participants to disclose whether they advanced to the next round. McClelland’s could only say that “he possibilities are endless, as long as we keep taking our vitamins, and getting a moderate amount of sleep at night. We are happy about the future.”
all photos by Danny Hsu