An important strategy of The Collaboratory at Ringling College of Art & Design is not only to ensure that students at Ringling College have the opportunity to get real-world experience working with clients, but also to provide these opportunities for students from other universities through innovative educational exchange programs. After about eight months of planning and negotiations, the first such exchange took place this summer with students majoring in Television and Sports Communications from Clemson University.
The goal is to work with schools that do not offer curriculum or academic approaches that Ringling does to challenge students to think and work with others whose approach to problem-solving may be entirely different.
One key element of the Ringling College Collaboratory Commitment is to prepare Ringling graduates to be competitive in the work force. Having experiences different from the norm in college is part of that competitive advantage. With this new exchange program, students from other universities get to experience this same challenge of thinking and working differently than they may have ever done before. Cynthia Gravino, the Associate Vice President for Collaborative Enterprises at Ringling, who has spent the past two years bringing the Collaboratory from concept to a vibrant, core effort of the college, explains it this way:
“Our intent is to immerse the visiting students in a world they would not otherwise be exposed to; to treat them like professionals from the moment they engage in a project; and to give them an experience that offers continuous feedback and builds in intensity. We take them from coal to diamonds by providing them with an immersive, or 'compressed,' high-value creative learning experience.”
The two students from Clemson who came to Ringling this summer completely agree.
“I haven’t changed my mind about my career goals,” said one, “but this summer has made my weaknesses into strengths.” And, added the other, “We worked with real clients with big expectations of what we would be able to do. We ended up with something real to put on our resume.”
For the Ringling students, the experience was valuable because of the completely different way the communications students were trained to think about projects. Said one, “Brainstorming was a whole different experience with these guys. It was eye-opening. And we all learned a lot.”
In just four weeks, the students took on a Facebook page redesign for the Collaboratory, a branding and marketing plan for Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, the creation of a series of 10-second videos to visually demonstrate the work of the Collaboratory, and a design planning project for Mote Marine and Aquarium. Their final presentations were so professional that visitors were taken aback, not only at the quality of their ideas, but at the intellectual and artistic sophistication with which they offered them.
Collaboratory Project Manager Corin Grover, who shepherded the students through the experience, designed the work to move like a freight train -- "start slowly out of the station and then build momentum until it is full speed.” The schedule was tight; clients understood that the students would ask questions and expect to get information just as any professional would. And the students were also provided with a comprehensive “insiders list” of things to do in Sarasota developed by Collaboratory students and staff.
An unexpected benefit? The Clemson students surprised their Ringling hosts with a video they made on their own of beautiful Sarasota sunsets, “to show them we really did learn some design.” And both of them want to return to Sarasota.
“Ultimately,” Gravino says, The Collaboratory is an economic development tool. We expect the visiting students to start seeing real future possibilities for themselves in this area and consider Sarasota as a relocation destination when they graduate.”
It worked this summer. Both Clemson students indicated a strong desire to come back and said they were going to be “big-time” recruiters for future exchange students.
As for the two Ringling College students who went to Clemson University for the summer, they are just now completing their internship. More on their experience after their return!
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