Columbian College to absorb Corcoran school

Media Credit: File photo by Hatchet staff photographer Zach Montellaro
Top administrators from GW met with Corcoran students Tuesday.

Corcoran College of Art + Design students who will now become part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences could have to complete GW’s general curriculum requirements to graduate, a top academic administrator said Wednesday.

Fall semester class schedules will remain untouched for current Corcoran students, but new students in the University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design might have to take the same courses, such as University Writing, mathematics and laboratory sciences, as other Columbian College students.

Though administrators are stilling hashing out details, the G-PAC courses “would replace or perhaps include the general curriculum courses that the Corcoran currently requires,” Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman said Wednesday.

Alan Wade, a GW theater and dance professor who is one of the school’s interim directors, said some professors have proposed that the University offer dean’s seminars to guide Corcoran students through the minimum of nine required courses.

As the Columbian College envelops the Corcoran school, administrators are considering whether to ask the art students to pay full GW tuition – an about $17,000 increase from what they pay now. Corcoran students will already see “moderate” increases to their tuition in the coming years.

That’s what top officials told Corcoran students at a meeting Tuesday after student leaders demanded more details about how their academic careers would change. The meeting, held at the Corcoran’s 17th Street auditorium, was the first between administrators and students in two months.

“We have worked out many more things since April and having these regular channels of communication is important,” Maltzman said. “​We received a number of ideas on ways to increase the involvement of Corcoran​ students and even families.”

Maltzman, Dean of Students Peter Konwerski and Center for Student Engagement director Tim Miller all attended the meeting with about 50 Corcoran students.

GW has tapped Stephanie Travis, who is the director of GW’s interior architecture and design program, and Wade as interim directors of the Corcoran school. Maltzman said after a nationwide search, the University will choose a permanent director.

Ben Vinson, dean of the Columbian College, said the University is looking for a “visionary” to lead the school.

“We are also looking for someone who can clearly articulate and effectively translate their vision, communicating it in ways that will help encourage philanthropy,” Vinson said. “We hope that this dynamic individual will help engineer this school into a preeminent unit of its type.”

The Corcoran Gallery of Art and its college have faced financial uncertainty and the strain of mismanagement for years, with fundraising for the gallery dropping by half in the last seven years. GW has committed to $25 million in initial renovations to the 115-year-old Beaux-Arts building, which University President Steven Knapp has said the University will have to cover at least partially through fundraising.

Wade said Corcoran students will receive GWorld cards and GW email addresses as the University starts to build a school within the Columbian College that will have a “similar structure” to the School of Media and Public Affairs.

The more than one-hour-long meeting Tuesday was a chance for Corcoran students to meet administrators, learn about available services at GW and ask questions, Konwerski said.

“We made it clear that we are open to student input and meetings like this are important to demonstrate transparency and keep lines of communication open,” Konwerski said.

Although Corcoran students will not attend Colonial Inauguration sessions this summer, they will have orientation programs in the fall, Konwerski said.

Student Association president Nick Gumas also attended the meeting. He said in an email that the SA will create several positions for Corcoran students to “help make the transition process as easy as possible,” though he did not provide details about what those positions would look like and declined phone interviews.

Miller said in an email that the spots on the SA will give Corcoran students a “voice on campus.”

“I expect that many of the aspects of our student life experience will be a value add to their already incredible academic experience with the Corcoran,” he said.

As GW continues to weigh decisions about how to structure classes and which Corcoran professors to hire, Corcoran students said they still have big questions about their futures.

Katie Nelson, a second-year graduate student who attended the meeting, said she thought the answers from administrators lacked the detail Corcoran students wanted.

“They’ve thought about things, but they haven’t gotten as far as students hope,” she said. “You could definitely sense some frustration from the students.”

More than 175 people have signed a petition that Corcoran students penned last week demanding more transparency and regular meetings with administrators during the merger.

Caroline Lacey, a third-year graduate student on the Corcoran Student Council, said the petition was meant to remind GW that it had promised to keep the spirit of the tight-knit Corcoran community intact.

“It’s hard to believe that with such huge amounts of money at hand, nobody knows what they imagined. Somebody has an idea of why this merger happened, so what is the vision?” Lacey said.

Mary Ellen McIntire contributed reporting

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.