News . Feature Stories . Guest Column: Increasing pathways leads to enrollment gains
December 12, 2022
By Yvette Sobky Shaffer
It took me about 30 years after graduating from high school, but I finally am living my dream of joining the community at Cleveland Institute of Art. CIA represented the pinnacle of excellence in art and design education, and it appeared unattainable and elite. Only a few top art students went to art school at all, let alone CIA, and this first-generation student from Brunswick, Ohio was not encouraged to follow the “risky” path of visual art. While it pains me to admit it, the attitudes and stereotypes that permeated in 1990 are not so different now. I consider a primary component of my job to be myth-busting!
Dispelling those art college stereotypes can be as simple as seeing for yourself. We hosted our annual Admitted Student Day in April—the first held in person since the pandemic—and incentivized students to attend by assisting in paying for their transportation expenses. The day was electric! When asked what they most looked forward to in going to CIA in the fall, the word cloud formed in large, colorful fonts, the words “Community,” “Independence” and “Friendship.” We are hungry for those things, too, and the synergy must have been evident, because 84 percent of the students who attended that event ultimately joined us this fall.
We have made other exciting progress in making this education more accessible and inclusive. We were able to join Say Yes to Education, which provides full funding of tuition and fees for up to five students within the Cleveland Municipal School District. We are also the newest site for College Now, a pre-college after-school program facilitated by the city of Cleveland to assist local students in making the transition from high school to college. Each term, a new cohort of high school students comes to campus to improve their preparation for college, and we couldn’t resist offering them a drawing class, too.
We welcomed our largest class since 2019, with 183 new students on campus this fall. They are bright eyed and excited to be here. But there are so many more students we can serve if we busted a few more myths. “Unattainable?” “Elitist?” No. We are accessible to every type of student regardless of socio-economic status, gender identity, race or any other box on the form, and these 183 students exemplify that diversity. “Risky?” No. Design thinking and creative problem solving are what we do for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The world needs more of us, not less.
As an alum, you embody that art and design have real impact in the world today. While I sometimes wish someone like me had been there to assist the younger me in getting to CIA 30 years ago, I’m even happier to be that person for others. You are also that person. When you meet that perfect CIA student, encourage them to raise their hand and visit campus or to see us at a local portfolio day.
Thank you for the myth-busting you do every day.
Yvette Sobky Shaffer is Vice President of Enrollment Management + Marketing.
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Amber N. Ford ’16 is enjoying the ride of life as her career path takes twists and turns she could have never predicted after graduation! ✨ Learn more about Amber's story: https://t.co/uODQOZ08eD #CIAAlumniCreate
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