DANBURY, CONN. — For the past four years, the faculty and staff of the Western Connecticut State University Department of Art has focused their energies on earning accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design for WCSU.
Catherine Vanaria, associate professor of Art and chair of the department, worked closely with her colleagues to answer questions, guide tours for the visiting accrediting team, and make suggested adjustments. In May, the department received notification that it had been approved.
The program is now one of five accredited departments in the state, joining University of Connecticut, University of Bridgeport, Hartford Art School and University of New Haven. And it is the only Connecticut state university to achieve the distinction.
The department offers a Bachelor of Arts in Art with concentrations in graphic design, photography, painting or illustration, and a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art. NASAD accreditation signifies that both programs meet the high standards set by the agency. The organization establishes national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees and other credentials for art and design and art/design-related disciplines.
“It’s going to transform the department,” said Ken Scaglia, assistant professor of Art. “We will be able to expand our offerings. We will be able not only to service students but to help them aspire. Now with accreditation, we can speak with pride to this school as a whole. It’s a center of creativity. It is a source of pride.”
In addition to bringing credit and honor to the department and current students, the accreditation allows faculty to work on creating a Bachelor of Fine Arts within the next two to three years.
A B.F.A. is considered a professional degree for working artists and others who would work in the industry and will put the department on equal footing with other universities as it recruits the most accomplished high school art students.
“A B.F.A. is a much more complete education in applied art as well as professional standards,” said Jack Tom, assistant professor of Art. “Some people don’t understand an art degree. We’re not just teaching you how to make pretty pictures. It’s communication and expression.”
The Department of Music and the Department of Theatre Arts, also in the School of Visual and Performing Arts, are both accredited by their governing organizations.
“It shows we can prepare our students for whatever aspect of life they will face,” Scaglia said. “The best thing about an art degree is you become a critical thinker. You may not get an art job — you can get any job you want. Accreditation improves our image and brand.”
With accreditation, Vanaria said, “We will have more people looking at us. We will see a shift upward in enrollment. That’s going to be very exciting.”
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.