Confessions of an erstwhile philanthropist and frustrated educator

News: ‘Lessons From A Street-Wise Professor’ – Inside Higher Ed.

Several things in this short interview struck me as tremendously important. I thought not only of the students I advise and teach, but of the musicians and erstwhile fellow arts philanthropists on the many boards from which I’ve stepped down.

The author’s first interview response alone serves as the citation for which I’ve been searching while counseling my students and advisees and arguing with countless board members over the past eight years. Funnily enough, my students and advisees see the logic and reason without need of additional support. I wish my former board members and arts administrators could have seen the self-evident importance of audience education and arts advocacy while trying to plan and manage their organizational success.

And the question of what to omit from arts education to better prepare students for professional success is troubling. What is more valuable from an educational perspective, multiple credit hours dedicated to one hour of studio instruction or a diversion of those credit hours to a discussion of  “having entrepreneurial savvy, strong communication skills, fluency with emerging technologies, commitment to audience education, and public advocacy for music and the arts” (and yes, I’m aware every performance faculty member who just read that last statement shouted “heresy”)? Would these courses be more important than music history (says the music historian)? Should we be more concerned with making certain a string bass player has piano skills than we are with her ability to market and promote her talents on her primary instrument? I think I’d argue that entrepreneurial preparedness is more important than all of the above and should be allotted a place in truly educational and student-centered curricula. But I’d also argue for better effectiveness in delivering the educational content of the topics from which the program diverts the credit hours.

Appreciating the “teacherly” aspects of academic advising leads us to identify that what we really do in a student’s first year is teach them to self advise in an effort to help them take ownership of their own education–doing so also allows us to not burden the student (or our office) with year after year of required meetings to discuss schedule planning or university-level research and learning skills. This doesn’t disavow the importance of teaching the student the information in the first place, it simply allows us to have the conversation once or twice rather than multiple times throughout one’s university education–they can just check in from time to time to make certain their progress is consistent. You can teach a musician to historically research the pieces they perform and enlighten non-pianists to never put their thumb on a black key in one semester. And from a curricular stand-point, one credit hour is typically equivalent to one contact hour–roughly fifty minutes of instruction per week–regardless of how many hours outside the studio the student spends preparing for that one contact hour.

These are simple observations made from my perspective on education and arts advocacy. I certainly don’t propose that I have all the answers…but maybe this book has a few to pay attention to.


About Art

I've been a higher education professional for over 15 years and an Academic Advising administrator for the past eight of those. I have a background in exploratory student advising and have spent a great deal of time guiding students through contemplating their personal college-to-career pathways. I've published, presented, and consulted on the intersection of social media and academia and am a firm believer in social media's power as a tool for engagement rather than solely information delivery. I've worked at public and private institutions as well as 2-year colleges and 4-year universities. I believe in Academic Advising as a teaching and learning activity, that learner-centered education is the key to students' academic success, and that as long as we keep students' individual goals and success at the center of our decision-making process, the problem of college-level student attrition can be solved.
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One Response to Confessions of an erstwhile philanthropist and frustrated educator

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hey there! I’m glad Major Discoveries popped up on my reader today. I would have missed this book if you hadn’t highlighted it. Ricker’s second response is important to students regardless of major, but a young artist I met this year seems to be living this plan. I can say acting on the list: “take charge of your career”, “get some business chops”, and “keep your art at a high level” have been working for her.

    I know it’s a challenge to fit everything into a student’s course of study. I am not for more requirements, but I am all for encouraging students to learn all they can from the many avenues out there.


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