Message from the Dean

Now is a time of great flux in higher education, especially among world-leading public research universities, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Technology is expanding the ways instruction can be delivered effectively, in turn inspiring innovation in the design of infrastructure, teaching spaces, and learning environments; academic programs are being retooled to maximize the power of learning on a traditional residential campus and to connect research and learning; and universities, which were once very conservative organizations, are becoming more flexible and experimental in their operations and approaches.

All of this bodes well for the arts at Illinois. Creativity, experimentation, invention, design, and aesthetics—increasingly recognized as the drivers of competitive advantage in advanced economies—are fundamental to the DNA of our disciplines. Our capacity to be innovative in research, instruction, and public engagement is vast. Outstanding students come to the College of Fine and Applied Arts to master their disciplines—architecture, industrial design, music, city planning, graphic design, visual art, art history, theatre, landscape architecture, dance—because our college is the most extensive of its kind in the United States and also part of a university of great breadth and depth.

At FAA and Illinois, we have the collective resources, infrastructure, and world-class faculty and staff to design and deliver the highest quality academic programs and widest range of cross-disciplinary learning opportunities. We do not produce graduates skilled in only a single discipline, art form, or academic specialization. Top scholars and artists join our ranks because of the richness of our environment; our capacity to mutually capitalize on research, teaching, and engagement activities; and our commitment to the well-rounded education of our students.

Moreover, common assets of the residential campus—mastery of subject matter via hands-on research and creative production, learning through collaboration on complex projects, routine contact with top faculty, regular tutoring and mentoring, evaluation through dialogue and constructive critique, communicating findings visually and orally—are inherent features of our teaching model. The 2,400 students in our college work and learn with some 240 faculty in studios, seminars, and lectures that average just 15 students per course. We are big, but we operate small.

None of this means, however, that our future as a vibrant college of the arts is guaranteed. That is why we spent the better part of the fall semester working together to develop a three-year trajectory that aligns with the new campus strategic plan and sets our own course. Among other things, our strategy identifies tangible actions to expand the intersection of the arts, design, engineering, and science disciplines on the Illinois campus; to soften the boundaries among our own curricula to give students more cross-disciplinary options; to enhance our visibility on campus and beyond; and to make the arts more accessible and essential to the campus at large, thereby building a university that is stronger by virtue of its capacity for creative problem solving.

Every day I am inspired by the remarkable achievements of our graduates, faculty, staff, and students, and I am deeply grateful for the support and passionate commitment of our many alumni, parents, and donors. Within this uniquely expansive college of the visual arts and design, performing arts, and environmental design disciplines, our diverse contributions together constitute our distinctive collective advantage. In this time of disruptive innovation in higher education, we must be bold in leveraging that shared advantage, harnessing the power of the university as a whole, and tapping our innate creativity to achieve our vision of unsurpassed excellence in the arts.

Edward Feser
Professor and Dean

January 2014


Dean Edward Feser