Family Guide

Upper-Class Students, College Life & Student Development

MICA students share many similarities.

Students predominantly come to MICA to both broaden their understanding of the role of fine arts in the 21st century and to specialize in a selected major as a studio artist, designer, or art educator. MICA students share gifts of creativity, drive, and a strong commitment to their work. Almost all MICA students will have a shared residential community experience.

In addition to these shared characteristics, each MICA student is also unique. Through the intersection and complexity of a student’s gender, race, ability/disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational background, and familial environment, each undergraduate student brings individual views and gifts to share with this special community of artists. Our inherent goal is to meet all students where they are along their journey and to promote development of a holistic self in a student-focused manner.

Part of the joy and challenge of parenting young adults is the incredible growth a young person experiences during college. The college experience affects students in myriad ways: from how information is taken in and processed to a reflection of self and core values, and what they hope to attain in their journey as artists and community members. Often, college is a period of experimentation in which the person “tries on” different life experiences and peer groups to see where she or he best fits. Often, concurrent changes may take place in the student’s self expression or behavior.

It is important for parents to hang in there during these periods of change. However, there are appropriate times for parents to challenge their student about behavior. These situations can include when parents believe their student’s daily life experience is being affected by the use of alcohol and drugs (such as missing class on a repetitive basis or not being able to account for large periods of time in their memory) or when students are making decisions that would be considered dangerous or risky (such as walking alone late at night). MICA encourages parents to consistently communicate with their student via email or phone on a regular basis and to take the time to ask questions about their student’s lives—both in and outside of the classroom.

Although much attention is paid to the Foundation year, the student journey spans all four years and includes a range of developmental tasks. MICA students are able to take advantage of multiple resources and services to support them, and you will find these services profiled in this handbook.

The goal of the Office of Student Affairs is to support the intellectual, professional, and psychosocial development of students across that four-year period. The office works closely with faculty and staff in order to support this development and to serve students in ways that enrich their experiences here at MICA. Over the past several years, the Offices of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs have focused on identifying which professional development goals are salient during each of the three upper-class years. Your role as parents can be critical in helping the student focus on appropriate academic and professional tasks and milestones. Sometimes that focus can take the form of a gentle question or reminder; other times, it might simply be a recommendation or suggested reading. Research as well as experience tells us how important parental support is during this time of decision making and increasing autonomy.

Sophomore Year

During the sophomore year, students often make decisions about which friends to live with as they solidify their peer group. Since students declare their major at the end of Foundation year, the sophomore year becomes the entrance into their major course of study. In addition, all students are assigned an academic advisor who will provide assistance and support throughout their MICA experience and the completion of their academic program. Sophomores will begin taking two to three courses within their major each semester and also begin to become acquainted with faculty within the department. It is normal for students to wonder if they’ve made the right choice in choosing their majors and to engage in conversations with faculty across the college if they are uncertain about their decision. It is not uncommon for students to experience difficulty with the academic freedom they encounter as sophomores. While the Foundation year is quite structured around faculty assignments and the completion of specific tasks, sophomores are asked to create a body of work that reflects their values, ideas, and purposes.

The sophomore year often becomes a prime opportunity for students to assume leadership roles on campus, including living on a residential floor as a Resident Advisor or serving as an Orientation Leader for entering first-year students. The combination of continuing to reside on campus and becoming more involved in the co-curricular world offers students the opportunity to explore their skills in new ways while maintaining the level of support and warmth this community has to offer.

From a professional development perspective, the sophomore year continues the personal development trajectory of the Foundation year as students move through a period of self-realization as artists. They look more deeply into the intersection of their personal emotions, beliefs, and the expression of themselves in their visual art.

The sophomore year is also a critical time for students to learn how to document their work for the purpose of creating portfolios (including digital formats). Second-year students should begin building knowledge of career options related to their chosen major and developing self-presentation and interviewing techniques for internships.

Junior Year

During the junior year, students are immersed in their major course of study, often focusing on gaining additional experiences through internships or study abroad. Because of the intensity of the senior year experience, students find that their third year is often the best for spending a semester away from the College, gaining valuable experiences that will supplement their academic career. Juniors who remain at MICA provide seasoned leadership to student organizations and make a difference on campus through student life roles, including Student Activities Program Managers, Career Center Peer Advisors, Resident Life Studio Managers, and Resident Assistants. Increasingly, more and more juniors are choosing to live on-campus in Meyerhoff House or the Gateway.

In terms of professional development, a junior should continue to refine a professional portfolio of work to show during interviews for internships and graduate admissions. In addition, students need to organize thoughtful presentations of their work, speak with faculty about potential graduate school programs or job networks in their discipline, and write an artist statement reflecting the perspective they bring to their creative work.

Senior Year

MICA seniors often find themselves living in two worlds: making the most out of their last year at college and preparing for the next steps after graduation. The senior year is often one of mixed emotions, as students celebrate their accomplishments while worrying about how their lives may look after graduation. Seniors spend a great deal of time in their Senior Thesis course with a predominant focus on independent work to prepare for the Commencement Exhibition.

Seniors are also expected to integrate their academic and professional development experiences. Senior students should focus on effective networking, explore graduate schools, or professional careers, as well as prepare to be effective financial managers as artists moving into the professional world.