Study Abroad From a New Angle

Study Abroad From a New Angle

Photo credit: Eve Avdoulos

The photography currently hanging in the Kresge Art Center is strikingly different from any exhibit it has ever held. The photographers are actually not photographers at all, or even art majors; rather students with little to no prior camera experience. Each captivating photograph was taken by a student enrolled in Studio Art 491, an online special topics course taken in conjunction with their study abroad trips.

The online course is a brand new addition to MSU study abroad. It enables non-art majors to familiarize themselves with photography and return home with pictures that are not typical touristy shots.

The very first course debuted this summer in correlation with 29 students and their various study abroad trips.

“The class was a tremendous success,” said Peter Glendinning, instructor of the course. “The opportunity that we were able to serve as a department to expand students artistic side and help them explore the worlds they find themselves in brings an extra dimension to the study abroad programs.”

Glendinning said students traveled to over 17 countries including Kenya, Ireland and Japan. Their majors ranged from ecology to engineering, and only one student embarked on an art-related trip.

Each student was required to have a camera that would shoot at least five mega pixels. In addition, they each created a Flickr account where they could upload, share and comment on photographs from students enrolled in the class but in different countries.

The artist behind an especially extraordinary piece is Eve Avdoulos, an anthropology junior. She traveled to Greece over the summer on a study abroad trip, and took the STA 491 course as well. Her photograph is a profile shot taken in Athens, Greece. An individual’s face is gently titled upward, Greek ruins mirrored in the surface of their Ray-Bans.

“I absolutely loved seeing photographs taken by other students in my class,” said Avdoulos. “Not only did it create a drive in me to visit those places but it allowed me to, in a sense, virtually experience those destinations.”

Glendinning explained that 25 different photography categories were developed. Each would have an abstract name such as “colors,” and students would have to interpret the assignment name individually and take photographs based on their interpretation.

Students had to upload pictures to 15 out of the 25 categories. As well as uploading, they also critiqued their classmate’s photos. This created a real visual-interchange by enabling them to see how other students construed the category names.

“Since we had so many categories for our class, we had to definitely concentrate on taking tons of different and unique pictures,” said animal science senior, Jessica Makowski. “I stepped out of my own box by taking this class and now pay attention to all sorts of views, angles, focus and details.”

The use of Photoshop tricks were strongly discouraged.

“It’s all about camera vision and seeing like a camera in terms of technique,” said Glendinning. “I wanted to them to be so aware of what was around them, and the possibilities of taking the fragment of reality they were in and holding that, using it as their inspiration.”

The students paralleled the persona of an experienced photographer learning the ins and outs of camerawork, focus and content. This extra obligation of their trip broadened their experience.

“The photographs come from the students looking at the world around them and saying “This is my world, and I’m not going to define it by travel book images and ideas.” They really got into the meat of the place.” said Glendinning.

“The class really challenged me to bring a photographer’s perspective with me while traveling,” said advertising junior Yao Lu who traveled to Japan and China over the summer. “My ‘photographer’s perspective’ of the world is much more creative than that of just a traveler’s. I paid more attention to people around me. When shooting the portraits of strangers, I had a lot more communication with the locals.”

The photographs the students captured while abroad were recently put on display at the Kresge Art Center. The exhibit is entitled ‘This is My World’ (the title of the course itself) and featured at least one photograph per student. The Office of the Provost made funding for this exhibit possible.

Glendinning said over 200 people appeared at the opening night of the exhibit. The vast majority of these people had never before stepped foot inside the Kresge Art Center.

“I wanted to teach people expansive ways about looking at the world they find themselves in,” he said. “My hope is that the show will have a purpose that is a teaching one, and also that represents MSU well.”

The exhibit will leave the Kresge Center in the middle of February and travel to The Crooked Tree Art Center in Petoskey until the end of March. The show will then travel throughout Michigan high schools for a year and half, free of charge.

Because the course was such an immense success they changed the description, said Glendinning.  The 3-credit online course will now be offered during each semester rather than just summer.

“Making photographs for the course opened my eyes to the world in ways I would have expected,” said Avdoulos. “I became more attune to details around me…this course enabled me to look at the big picture as well as all the fine details that the world presents.”

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Ready, Set, Graduate

Ready, Set, Graduate

MSU December graduates

The myriad of opportunities that are currently available for students at universities are impacting their graduation timeline. Students are no longer graduating in the “typical” four years. While many students have the opportunity to graduate early, others are graduating a semester late.

Internships, study abroad programs, and major changes may require students to reconfigure their graduation and take an extra semester of school in order to fulfill their credit requirements. On the other hand, summer courses, heavy course loads, and early job offers generate the idea of graduating a semester early.

Regardless of how long it takes to earn a degree, fall graduates are on the rise. According to MSU Office of the Registrar, in the spring of 2007, 1,179 bachelor degrees were awarded to students, about one third of the 3,552 degrees granted in 2009. A common misconception among students is that graduating in the fall decreases their chances of getting a job afterward.

“There is a myth out there that spring grads have a greater opportunity,” said Vern Mason, senior associate director at the Lear Career Center. “The students professional development and preparedness takes care of that belief; if you’ve done diligence in your preparation the December graduation does not have the perception of being penalized.”

According to Mason, an extra semester on top of the standard 4 years of undergraduate studies may even appear more attractive to employers. It implies more practical experience, and is an indication that students have a stronger academic standing. Mason said the exchange of a less formal commencement ceremony in the fall for a more appealing resume definitely has its benefits.

“Companies and organizations do hire year round,” Mason said. “A fall graduation is certainly not frowned upon by companies. What they want is an indication that students know what to expect, and that is shown through their academic career and practical experience.”

Retailing senior, Taylor Young, graduated a semester early in December 2010.

“I was lucky enough to get a job opportunity that I could not pass up,” said Young. “I am excited to be moving on to the next stage of my life but will miss all the people I have met at MSU.”

In order to solidify her graduation date, Young took summer classes and did an internship during the summer. In January she kick-started her career with a position as a sales representative for apparel and footwear companies Billabong, Element, and Sanuk.

A fall graduation is becoming more common at other universities other than Michigan State. The University of Texas’ Office of Relationship Management and University Events reports that the university had about 2,400 undergraduates earn a degree in December.

Lynne Levinson, Assistant Director at the Sanger Learning and Carreer Center of the University of Texas said, “When people are done they’re done, and they don’t want to stick around another semester and pay for unnecessary classes.” Levinson also said that students could have come into college with dual-credits that were obtained in high school, or had advance placement.

“The option of graduating in the fall is customized per student. Ask yourself what you have done to make yourself more marketable,” said Levinson. “That is one of the big messages to employers, often times your degree isn’t the whole picture.”

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