Welcome to the Future

Please send any private comments to futureofartcenter at gmail.com. Note that comments were turned off last May. They are available now for the most recent post only.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winter 2009 Update

The new president, Lorne Buchman, is here and is about to begin a 6th month long process of defining what the future of Art Center is. Below is his letter announcing this. Two events are planned in the week before school starts. If you are interested in participating, please attend. I think the process will be a very positive one, though I expect lots of discomfort and angst from many directions.

The bottom line for me is that if Art Center does not define an innovative new path into the future, the school will fade. But if we can move forward in a bold way, we'll be a great college and dramatically influence the fields we teach.

Kick-off event: January 13th, 7:30-9:30, Ahmanson Theater
First Brainstorming event: January 14th, 11:30-5:30, student dining room

I'm opening up comments for this post (other posts are set to be moderated, and I'll delete any comments to them).

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Trustees and Alumni:

As many of you know, I am initiating a comprehensive planning process
at Art Center designed to produce both a creative vision for the
future and, in the long run, the strategy that will get us there. The
sequence is crucial. We must first come together as a community to
envision our opportunities, to imagine new possibilities, and to enter
into a bold, habit-breaking, conversation about our educational
future. Strategic planning — the mechanism to get us there — will
follow next summer.

I am writing to ask you to join in this first phase of educational
planning and to attend a kick-off event on the evening of Wednesday
January 13th in the Ahmanson Auditorium from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Given the imperative of building a pertinent, responsive, and
future-oriented plan, we will invite a few key individuals (thought
leaders) from outside ACCD to serve on a panel to address the question
of what they believe are the challenges of a great art and design
college of the future. Please plan to be there to witness this
important conversation which will generate thought-provoking ideas,
provide perspective from the outside, and ultimately facilitate a
discussion amongst ourselves.

I would also like to invite (and strongly encourage) any and all of
you to join us the following day for an internal brainstorming session
on Thursday, January 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Student
Dining Room to begin the planning process which will focus on the
following five major issues derived from our Mission Statement:

Students & Student Life
Curriculum & Pedagogy
Outside Partnerships
Governance & Community
Future Trends and Global Context

We will form five groups that will work together on that day and
throughout the term to develop final recommendations that I will
present to the Board of Trustees during their annual retreat in late

Art Center needs an educational vision and an educational plan. It
needs at once to preserve what we know works today and to create
opportunities for the future. New programs, new learning models, new
online offerings, curricular reform, student life and service,
diversity, inclusion, access, affordability, research,
professionalism, ethics, partnerships, community, shared governance,
etc. — all will come together in the plan we create. Art Center also
needs a collective process to articulate its vision, one that gives
voice to all members of the community who wish to be involved and who
have something to say.

I ask for your involvement, your time, your ideas, and your good will
toward this crucial endeavor. We need you there.

Please RSVP to Jered Gold at jered.gold@artcenter.edu by December 17,
2009 with your interest in attending the evening session and/or the
following day’s retreat.

Best regards,

Lorne M. Buchman

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fall 2009 Update

It seems people are still reading this (now retired) blog, so I thought I should update the status at ACCD.

  • The new president, Lorne M. Buchman, will arrive in October. All reports are positive regarding him, and he had many positive attributes including previous experience as president of an art/design school (CCA), fund raising, and a healthy focus on education. An interesting side note is that Buchman had applied to be president 10 years ago and was a top finalist when Koshalek was chosen.
  • There is a new head of HR, which should clear the way for better policies and more transparency.
  • The various college committees are up and running and seem to be doing a good job with participation from faculty, students, chairs and staff.
  • There is a serious recognition throughout the college of the financial burden students are being asked to take on. Tuition increases are reportedly going to be limited as much as possible and kept below increases at other comparable schools. And fund raising is focused on increasing scholarship funds.
  • One of the accreditation groups, WASC, will be around the campus in early fall, and will undoubtably find progress, but still lots to do in terms of improving education at ACCD. If you have comments about education, you should get in touch with WASC through the student council, faculty council, or directly.
  • Relations with alumni and the neighborhood groups have apparently improved greatly through the work of interim president Ellsworth.
  • Overall morale is better, but still cautious. Good teaching is going on, and I think people feel the place is less fragile. On the other hand, there are still a lot of old resentments, and a lack of strong community feeling among faculty, staff, and chairs. I don't have a good read on how the students feel.
  • The next big thing will be taking a look at what education should look like in the future at ACCD (not mention evaluating the current programs). Making the major changes that (in my opinion) need to be made to update the curriculums for the next 20 years will require a lot of courage from the Chairs and Faculty.
  • Facilities need a lot of work - the Ellwood building on the hillside needs major renovations including earthquake and air-conditioning. And the south campus needs many changes as well.
So overall, the college is still doing a good job of educating, and we are now much better positioned to go into the future, both financially and educationally. But it will take a lot of work from all involved to get there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Where we are in May 2009

A brief update on where we are in May 2009:
  • The presidential search is well underway, and it is likely that a new president of the college will be in place for fall 2009
  • Interim president Frank Ellsworth has made major cuts in the administrative part of the school, saving literally millions of dollars
  • Faculty and students are participating in many of the major committees including budget and technology/facilities
  • A new mission statement is in development
  • The board of trustees is much reduced, but now composed of mostly active participants - it seems much of the rancor and disagreement is in the past
  • Building plans are currently on hold, but some expansion is still planned in the long run. The recent South Campus construction is wrapping up and grad programs are moving from the hillside into the wind tunnel, and new classrooms are opening in the basement.
  • There are still many things that need to be changed at the school including updating of curriculums, greater role of faculty in governance of the school, better policies and procedures, and perhaps most important, an updated vision of Art Center's role in the art and design world.
  • Financially, the school is okay for now, but needs to update its educational and business models in order to survive in the long run.
Lastly, it is clear to most in the school community that Art Center would have faced dire problems if the changes over the last year had not taken place. Non-education spending was out of control, priorities were misplaced, education was suffering, and the mission of the school was seriously out of sync with a productive future for the school. The causes for this can be debated, but we now face several years of rebuilding. Thanks to all who helped start these essential changes a year ago.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More administrative changes - Breitenberg & Tambascia resign

Recently resigned: Dr. Mark Breitenberg Dean, Humanities & Design Sciences & Tracy Poon Tambascia, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Date: December 11, 2008
To: All Students, Chairs, Faculty and Staff
From: Frank L. Ellsworth and Nik Hafermaas

It is with mixed emotions that we are letting you know that Dr. Mark Breitenberg will be leaving Art Center, and has accepted the position of Provost at California College of the Arts (CCA), located at its two campuses in San Francisco and Oakland. This is a significant appointment that will enable Mark to not only expand his professional reach, but to make an even larger contribution to the world of art and design education.

Mark will assume his new position on February 1, 2009. We are very pleased, however, that Mark will stay at Art Center for the first two weeks of Spring Term, in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Mark has a long history at Art Center, where he has been a passionate advocate around the world for the College, its educational programs, and the importance of design to business, industry and society. During Mark’s time here we have been impressed with his dedication to modeling the best of academic collaboration not only with all of our Education departments, but also with such critical functions as Admissions, Development, International Initiatives and Designmatters, and Marketing and Communications.

Many of you may not know that Mark joined Art Center in 1998 as a part-time instructor in Grad Art and Liberal Arts & Sciences. Motivated by his commitment to providing students with the general knowledge they need to succeed as designers, Mark became a full-time instructor in 1999, and then assumed a number of increasingly influential roles: Chair of Liberal Arts & Sciences (2000-2004); Dean, Undergraduate Education (2004-2007); and currently Dean, Humanities & Design Sciences (2007-present).

In these capacities, he developed a number of new initiatives and programs, including: a new liberal arts and sciences curriculum based on rigor and relevance in support of the art and design studio departments; a comprehensive writing program, including The Writing Center; a new business curriculum; an expanded commitment to design research; international collaborations with INSEAD and Tama Art University; and expanding the Toyota Lecture Series into what will debut next term as The Big Picture lecture series available to all students, faculty and staff.

We are very grateful for Mark’s many contributions, which will continue to enrich Art Center’s offerings and experience for years to come. Please join us in wishing him well in his new position.


Frank L. Ellsworth Nik Hafermaas

Date: December 12, 2008
To: All Students, Chairs, Faculty and Staff
From: Frank L. Ellsworth

I am sorry to let you know that Tracy Poon Tambascia, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, has advised me that she will be leaving Art Center to pursue other professional interests. Her last day on campus will be January 9, 2009.

Since joining Art Center in 2005, Tracy has worked closely with student services departments to shape the student experience positively, from the very first day all the way through the transition to our alumni community. Her student-centered approach to examining policies, programs and practices has ensured both equity and consistency in outcomes. Overall, Tracy has brought to her responsibilities a professional and knowledgeable perspective, as well as a genuine concern for our students and their experience here.

Although we have worked together just a short time, I discovered early on Tracy’s commitment to being a team player and making things work. These are attributes that she will carry on with her into her next chapter.

I know that each of you who has worked with Tracy will join me in wishing her well.

Yours Sincerely,

Frank L. Ellsworth

Friday, November 14, 2008

Interim President Makes Organization changes

DATE: November 14, 2008

TO: All Faculty and Staff

FROM: Frank L. Ellsworth

RE: Organization changes

As Interim President, part of my charge from the Board of Trustees is to address Art Center’s overall operating budget, with an eye for the next three years, in light of recent enrollment concerns and the general uncertainty in the economy. In approaching this responsibility, I am refocusing our spending priorities as an educational institution. Through careful evaluation of the administrative functions and needs of the College, the following reorganizational changes have been made. Although there will be more, I do want to communicate to you now what has occurred recently.

  1. President’s Office. Four staff members staffed this office prior to my arrival. Upon review, it has been determined that three of these positions are not needed. Sheila Low will continue as Executive Assistant.

  2. Architecture and Planning: As you know the Board of Trustees has placed the Frank Gehry Design Research Complex on indefinite hold. The remaining responsibilities of the Architecture and Planning Office -- classroom modifications and other ongoing facility improvements -- will be outsourced to appropriate vendors with managerial oversight provided by the Facilities department. (Please note that this is standard practice at most colleges and universities.) The build-out of the South Campus “Wind Tunnel” for the Graduate Media Design studios will be completed by January 2009. Other planned projects, such as housing and the Power Plant are still tentative. Our new Ad Hoc Committee on Facilities on campus will review all facilities needs including those already identified to determine costs and priorities. In light of these changes, it has been determined that Art Center no longer needs a dedicated, in-house architectural support staff and we have closed this department. Jennifer Orefice, Administrative Assistant, and Rollin Homer, Designer, will now report to the Facilities Department.

  3. Senior Vice President for IT: Michael Berman is no longer working for us. His position has been eliminated. Our Vice President for IT, Theresa Zix, will report to the CFO. As you know, we have another Director for IT position vacant.

  4. Student Affairs: Previously reporting to the Chief Academic Officer, the Office of Student Affairs under the leadership of the Dean of Students will now report directly to the Interim President. These departments include Enrollment Services, Registrar, Student Affairs, Student Life, and Career Services.

  5. Admissions and Financial Aid. These two functions were reporting to two different offices. The Admissions and Financial Aid offices will now, working closely together, report directly to the Interim President.

  6. Library: Previously reporting to the Chief Technology Officer, the Vice President of the Library will now report directly to the Dean of Academic Affairs.

  7. Gallery and Exhibitions: Previously reporting to the Chief Academic Officer, the Director of the Gallery and Exhibitions will now report directly to the Dean of Academic Affairs.

  8. Alumni Relations: Previously reporting to the Dean of Students, the Office of Alumni Relations will join the Office of Development. Historically, Alumni Relations has always supported Development’s efforts in building effective giving relationships between alumni and the College. A wonderful example is the Legacy Circle, an alumni fund-raising group for student scholarships. Under this new arrangement, Alumni Relations will work closely with members of the Development staff toward our goals of increased scholarship support and other institutional opportunities. The Office of Alumni Relations will continue to work closely with many other departments -- Admissions, Student Life, Career Services and the educational leadership of Art Center -- as part of its commitment to build lifelong relationships between our students and the College. The many resources and benefits currently available to our students and alumni, such as networking through global alumni events and the In Circle web community, will not be affected.

Finally, I want to emphasize that these decisions have been motivated by a concern to realign the operating budget with our core educational commitment to the faculty, programs, environment and community we provide for our students.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Pasadena, Calif., October 9, 2008 – The Board of Trustees of Art Center College of Design announced today the appointment of Dr. Frank L. Ellsworth as Interim President of the College. Dr. Ellsworth’s appointment is effective immediately and will extend through the ongoing search for a permanent president, which is anticipated by the end of 2009.

In a career spanning over forty years, Dr. Ellsworth brings a broad range of experience in higher education, the arts, fundraising, nonprofit management, and governance. During his academic career he served as President of Pitzer College, as the youngest president in the history of The Claremont Colleges; President of the Independent Colleges of Southern California; and most recently, President of The Japan Society in New York City. He has combined teaching and administration at these and a diverse number of academic institutions, including Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, Pennsylvania State University, and The University of Chicago, where he served as Assistant Dean in the Law School.

Active in cultural and community affairs, Dr. Ellsworth currently serves on several boards, including Give2Asia, The Paul Taylor Dance Foundation, Global Partners Institute, and the American Friends, National Portrait Gallery (London).

Dr. Ellsworth received his A.B. cum laude from Adelbert College, Case Western University; his M.Ed. from Pennsylvania State University and his M.A. from Columbia University; and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He has also received two honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Pepperdine University and Southwestern University School of Law.

In making the announcement, John Puerner, Chairman of The Board of Trustees said, “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are very pleased to have Frank join us as Interim President and provide ongoing momentum for Art Center during this transition period. We are confident that Frank’s diverse background combined with his deep knowledge of higher education will be very valuable as we continue to move the College’s agenda forward. We look forward to his contributions and leadership.”

Dr. Ellsworth said, “The reputation of the faculty of Art Center College of Design is long standing and outstanding. The graduates reflect admirably on this small, vibrant College and their influence permeates the lives of people throughout the world. I am honored to be able to play a role.”


Update from the Presidential Search Committee (9/29/08)

At today's meeting of the Presidential Search Committee, three search firms were interviewed. These firms — which were selected from an initial group of six well-respected firms that had submitted proposals — are all internationally-recognized, have impressive track records of success, and clearly understand the depth, breadth and scope of search that Art Center requires.

The Search Committee will make their decision within the next few days and will meet with the selected firm next week. The search firm will then meet with the Board of Trustees and report on their progress at the October 23 Board meeting.

The Search Committee will issue periodic updates when additional milestones have been achieved in the search for a new permanent President for Art Center.

Friday, September 26, 2008

First priorities for the Interim President

With the immanent appointment of an Interim President, what are the priorities for this new member of the Art Center community? Fundamentally, we believe that the college needs to set itself on a positive course before the new permanent president arrives. If things seem to be a mess with destructive factionalism, it will be much harder to hire a really great new president. Here are a few specific suggestions for the Interim President. Please add your own.
  1. Make a clear statement to the students, faculty, alumni and staff that from now on the college will be more transparent and communicative with them. Start by holding a public forum that explains the current status of the college, and then listens to the concerns of the community.

  2. Immediately spend money on visible improvements to the educational environment - these should be things that students and faculty experience as part of the day-to-day educational experience.

  3. Embark on a comprehensive review of spending with an eye towards focusing the school's budget on high quality education and recruitment, and the elimination of high-cost, low benefit spending and staff.

  4. Engage education (faculty, students, chairs, alumni) to initiate a dialog on art & design education for the 21st Century. How should the evolving role of artists and designers change our curriculum? What college-wide initiatives should there be to modernize education, create strong faculty development, and integrate technology and computing into education?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Pasadena, California, September 24, 2008 … The Board of Trustees of Art Center College of
Design announced today that they have reached an agreement with Richard Koshalek allowing
for Mr. Koshalek to be released from his position as president of the College prior to his contract
term date (December 2009). With this agreement, Mr. Koshalek’s departure from the College’s
Board of Trustees is effective immediately.

“We honor Richard’s request to leave early and want to thank him for the hard work and
dedication he has shown over the past nine years,” said John Puerner, Chairman, Board of
Trustees, Art Center College of Design. “Richard’s commitment to educational excellence and
the value of design education in the world is truly noteworthy, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

“It has been a great privilege to lead this important institution and to work with the College’s
talented students, faculty and staff,” said Mr. Koshalek. “Throughout its history, Art Center has
been a leader in art and design education, and I have no doubt this will continue to be the case
well into the future.”

While the Board of Trustees has already launched the search for a new president, they have
recognized the need to appoint an interim president as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the
College’s senior management team will report directly to the Board of Trustees.
“The trustees are moving swiftly to secure interim leadership to ensure a smooth transition,” said Mr. Puerner. “This will also enable the search committee to focus their full attention on finding a permanent president who can lead Art Center into the future while meeting the
curricular and programmatic needs of our students.”

The presidential search committee, which was organized several months ago, is headed by
Trustee Robert Davidson and is comprised of a broad representation of key Art Center
stakeholders, including trustees, faculty members, students, and administration. The committee
has begun working on identifying the qualities the College will seek in candidates for the
presidency, including a strong track record of successful leadership in the academic world or in
industry, a deep understanding and appreciation of design and the creative process, and the
ability to articulate and implement a strong strategic vision for Art Center.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where is the Board, Where is Hafermaas? Where is the Leadership?

Art Center is adrift and our supposed leadership is failing us. It has been 2 1/2 months since the Board announced that RK would not have his contract renewed, and they have been basically silent ever since. Nik Hafermaas has been the Acting CAO for more than a month, and almost nothing has happened from his office, not even a statement of what his direction will be, or how he will engage the campus community to implement changes.

There are serious issues pending: A new president needs to be hired, the financial health of the school, poor scholarships & high tuition, a lack of vision in 21st century education, false moves towards sustainability, falling apart facilities, under-spending in education and over spending in other areas, enrollment standards, falling confidence in the companies that hire our graduates, over-crowding, low faculty/staff moral, poor governance system, and a terrible communication tradition. We understand these issues will not be solved overnight, but THERE MUST BE BETTER COMMUNICATION and CLEAR INDICATIONS OF PROGRESS.

Students, faculty, alumni, and staff want to know: What is the school's plan? What changes are being implemented? What is the timeline? 

The leadership of this school needs to show respect for the community it serves. You are responsible for making change happen, and you are responsible for communicating how that change is progressing. God dammit, get moving!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Changes. More coming.

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

I would like to share with you a message from Marty Smith (below), who will be leaving his post as Chair, Product Design Department on September 5. Marty has accepted a position at Hong Kong Polytechnic University as Chair Professor of Industrial Design, where he will develop a new program targeted to the international business and design communities.

Marty has been an invaluable member of the Art Center faculty since 1985. He has made extraordinary contributions toward developing Product Design's growing focus on business and entrepreneurship, including the successful international exchange program with INSEAD.

I am also pleased to advise that Karen Hofmann will fill the role of Acting Chair, Product Design, as she did last year during Marty's sabbatical. Thanks to Karen's efforts in developing CMTEL, our focus on design research continues to grow and attract international support and recognition. We look forward to her continued leadership.

Please join me in wishing Marty continued success in this exciting next stage of his career. We hope there will be opportunities for us to keep in touch and even collaborate in the future.

Richard Koshalek

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nik Hafermaas / Acting Chief Academic Officer

Dear students, faculty and staff,

I am very pleased to advise that effective immediately, Nik Hafermaas will serve as Acting Chief Academic Officer. This appointment was initiated by Tim Kobe as Chair of the Board of Trustees' Education Committee, and subsequently approved by the Education Committee members. Nik has been an invaluable member of our Education team, especially during this transition period, and we look forward to his continued leadership in placing education as Art Center's highest priority.


Richard Koshalek

What do you think about this appointment?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Top 5 ACCD Issues

A lot has happened in the last couple of months, and many people we talk to feel like there is an unprecedented opportunity for positive change at Art Center. The college is searching for new leadership, the ill-communicated and overambitious DRC is tabled, the college has announced a "Zero Waste Plan", there is a renewed focus on education, scholarships have become a higher priority, and faculty and students are beginning to find their voices. 

Please use this post to state what you feel are the TOP 5 issues that need to be addressed at Art Center. We encourage people to use their real names if possible, and at a minimum to indicate if they are faculty, student, alumni, staff, admin, etc. It is helpful to understand your perspective. Even if you disagreed with the protests and felt the college was already on the right track, this is your opportunity to indicate your priorities for the college.