February 11, 2011
For over 30 years, Oklahoma Baptist University has offered a degree program in art education. Now, it is one of the last schools to offer the major in the state of Oklahoma, but because of the lack of students and a faculty member to direct the program, the university has decided to dissolve the major.
“It’s [getting rid of majors] very common; schools do it all the time,” Dr. Paul Hammond, dean and professor of music, Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts, said. “In fact, we were one of the only remaining schools in the state of Oklahoma that still offered art education; OSU doesn’t, OU doesn’t.”
This process will be complete by next fall, when Bison Hill will no longer accept majors into this area of study. However, students who are currently in the major will still be able to finish their degree here at OBU. At the moment, there is an adjunct professor teaching some of these art education classes.
“Well, like any major, it’s sort of waxed and waned,” said Steve Hick, professor of art. “It’s held up steadily until the last couple of years.”
Ashlyn Basinger, a junior art education major said that she did not receive much information about her major being dismissed from the school. She actually heard the news from her advisor while in class.
“I’ve talked to my advisor and he said he didn’t even know it was an official decision to the teacher education board,” Basinger said. “But it’s all right because they’re going to let me go ahead and continue with [the major].”
Basinger said she was initially worried about the decision and how it might affect her, but in the end she said she understood why the university decided to move in a different direction with the major.
“It was kind of shocking at first, but after talking with my advisors, they settled some things for me,” Basinger said. “So, it’s not as unnerving as I thought it would be.”
Still, Basinger said that the university could have handled the situation better.
“I understand that it’s not as high of an interest seeing as how I am the only one,” Basinger said. “But first of all, they could have let me know a little sooner that they were thinking about doing it, that they were thinking about even getting rid of the program.”
“They’ve handled it well, as far as grandfathering me out of the program, Basinger said, “by not letting new people enter the program. That makes me feel a little better.”
Even with the major being dissolved, Basinger said her graduation will not be affected by this decision.
“I don’t think it will have an effect, like with my schedule and things like that,” Basinger said. “I just had to change my schedule around this semester because of a class that is not going to be offered again and drop one class, but that’s a class that is offered every semester and online during the summer.”
But she did say this could pose a problem for students wanting to become art teachers.
“If [students] want to come here they’re either going to have to double major in art and education,” Basinger said, “which is harder because you’re here for a longer [period of time], and that’s a lot more hours that you have to take. Or you could major in education and minor in art. But then if you just major in education, they [an employer] can put you anywhere, they don’t just have to put you in art.”
“So, I think it does put a damper on the art program a little bit, but I don’t think it’s going to change it that drastically,” Basinger said.
Hammond said that there were several reasons as to why the university would no longer offer this major to students. The first was the decline of the number of people in the major and that there was no faculty member to oversee these students.
“Without a faculty member on the staff, you lose the focus of having a consistent presence,” Hammond said. “So, that’s one reason and I think that’s in part to the decline of student enrollment.”
Another reason, Hammond said, was the growing popularity of graphic design amongst many universities both on the state and national level.
Hick said, “There’s been a lot more interest in the graphic arts and that program. I think they’re a lot more job opportunities when you get through that program.”
Hammond said the final reason was that many states offer alternative certification for all types of teaching degrees. This also allows students to major in either education or art and minor in the same fields if they still want to become an art teacher.
“The state created alternative certification for better or worse, that’s where a lot of teachers are headed these days,” Hammond said. “And it’s primarily created for people who are mid-career who want to leave another field and go into teaching, but the college students are very aware of it.”
States such as Texas provide financial support to both mid-career people and college students who want to go through the alternative certification process to become a licensed teacher.
“It’s a very rigorous program, but they have a program with the state of Texas,” Hammond said. “So, you go through and take the courses at various state universities.”
The decision to dissolve this major also brings one final question to light: what happens to other small majors that don’t have many students in them?
“That’s always a question and it’s been done before,” Hammond said. “We always have to reassess because the market place changes, students interest change. We have done that before. We created graphic design because there was a demand for it.”
The official vote will not come until sometime in March to disband the art education program.
Hammond said he feels the decision is imminent. He said this decision would not affect many students because most of them are finishing up their studies and beginning their student teaching at various schools.