Ringling students learning

Success! The Collaboratory Is Embedded at Ringling College of Art & Design

Posted on August 23, 2017 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation
“[Ringling] College [of Art & Design] guarantees that every freshman who enrolls -- beginning with the fall of 2015 -- will be provided the opportunity to participate in a professional work experience with real clients, real deliverables and deadlines before graduation.” – Larry Thompson, President, Ringling College of Art & Design.

With those words penned in his blog a year ago, and with his recent update a few weeks ago, Dr. Larry Thompson acknowledges the impact of TPF’s investment in forming the Collaboratory at Ringling College of Art & Design. TPF commends Dr. Thompson, Cynthia Gravino, Associate Vice President, Collaborative Enterprises, and all the staff and faculty at Ringling who have worked so hard to embed a real-world learning experience into a college curriculum.

When TPF explored the concept of providing Ringling’s students with an opportunity for experiential learning, all involved agreed that the need and opportunity existed. TPF was particularly interested in including the experiential learning concept into the student curriculum and hoped it would be available to most students. To the credit of the leadership at Ringling, the Collaboratory has become fully embedded and it is available to ALL students.

As Dr. Thompson shares in his blog, this was no easy task. Ringling learned a lot, and so did TPF:
  • Leadership – TPF learned Academia functions differently than the non-profit and for profit sectors. Specifically, just because the President is in agreement with a course of action does not mean the leadership team at the college will automatically “buy-in”. Each leader needs to be courted because each has the ability to derail a new initiative. As a result, obtaining the “buy-in” from the leadership team took much longer than TPF expected. This is not a “bad thing;” it is just a reality of the sector. 
  • Willingness – Insinuated in the bullet point above is the fact that decision making is much more widespread at a college. More People = More Time. Creating willingness takes time because more people need to be educated as to the purpose of the initiative.
  • Readiness – Most nonprofit organizations and businesses operate year round. Colleges have a unique calendar in that they operate on an academic year and on semesters within that academic calendar. As a result, open positions (key staff and faculty) aren’t filled until the end of an academic school year and students are in classes only a short period of time. Therefore, “buy-in” from leaders is delayed significantly during a position transition, and there is not the luxury of ‘time’ to test a concept with the students. The concept needs to be fully developed before implementing.
As we bring closure to this as a “TPF Initiative,” TPF believes the intentional approach taken to embed experiential learning has resulted in a systemic change to Ringling College of Art & Design. We are excited and proud that hundreds of students have already benefitted, and we will eagerly watch as the Collaboratory continues to give students the opportunity to learn.

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