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First 100 Days

The Value of an Arts Education

by David Lee on Jul 10, 2019
The Value of an Arts Education

I had the great opportunity to meet and have lunch today with Jeff Morin, the college president at The Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Wisconsin’s only 4-year private college of art and design. 

Jeff shared some incredible work MIAD is doing to increase the pipeline of diverse designers, artists, and creative professionals by working intentionally to increase equity in higher education and in turn debunking some of the myths about art school. 

Over the last few years, MIAD has successfully increased the diversity of their student body population to more accurately reflect Milwaukee’s population. For example, about 44% of MIAD’s student body qualify for Pell Grants, about 25% are first generation college students, and 38% of this year’s incoming class identify as people of color. 

And despite what people might say about what a degree in art is worth, MIAD is one of the top three art schools in the nation at moving its students out of poverty and into middle-income jobs. 

Taking my story, a focus group of one, as an example, I studied theatre and acting at a performing arts high school and got my degree in film and drama. As you might imagine, my parents, who brought me to America as a wee baby, thought this was to be the ruin of their great American Dream for me. 

Rather, I would argue, this was the dream. I was given the freedom and creativity to explore, be curious, learn, fail, and start again. And while I worked in the performing arts as an actor, writer, and director, I’ve also worked as a chef, Wall Street compliance analyst, marketing consultant, and a government relations and non-profit leader. 

It was my training in the arts helped me develop the creativity, innovation, and empathy that’s needed in the modern workforce. And it’s helped me to be able to forge ahead in uncertainty, because nothing is more uncertain than a blank canvas or an empty stage. 

I also have a suspicion that my story is not special, that there are many of us who have a background in arts and design and who bring these skills to our jobs in finance, banking, healthcare, manufacturing, and tech.

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