April 21, 2009
This e-newsletter provides details and addresses your questions about the implementation of the Freshman Academies. Each issue of FAQ is topic-specific and will address such topics as organizational structure and staffing. Questions about each topic, as well as suggestions for future topics, are encouraged. Answers will be provided in subsequent issues and will be added to the Q&A that will reside on the QCC website.
Questions can be emailed to: faq@qcc.cuny.edu

In This Issue:
Introducing the Freshman Academy for Visual and Performing Arts
Meet the Coordinators of the VAPA Academy

Visual and Performing Arts Academy At-a-Glance
Faculty Coordinator: Georgia McGill
Freshman Coordinator:  Kimberly Brooks

VAPA Academy office: 
Library Basement Room 23; phone 718-631-6240

Current number of enrolled students: approximately 250

Areas of Study: Digital Art & Design; Gallery & Museum Studies; Music Electronic Technology; Art; Photography; Dance; Music and Theatre Arts

Departments & Chairs: Art & Design – Bob Rogers; Dance - Aaron Krac; Music - Kip Montgomery; Speech Communication and Theatre Arts – Tom Smith

Dr. Martì on the
Freshman Academies

Read the
March 18 Issue of FAQ

Read the Q&A's
FOCUS: Introducing the Freshman Academy for
Visual and Performing Arts
The Freshman Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) is a multi-disciplinary academy that has been in its first year, "pilot" phase since the fall of 2008. The programs of study that are included in the VAPA Academy  include Digital Art and Design, Gallery and Museum Studies, Music Electronic Technology, Visual and Performing Arts (in the disciplines of Art and Photography, Dance, Music, and Theatre Arts), and Photography. 

Beginning in the fall of 2008, all first-time, full-time freshman who expressed interest in studying one of these programs was enrolled in the VAPA Academy. There are current approximately 250 students enrolled in the VAPA Academy.

Faculty Coordinator, Georgia McGill, Associate Professor of Speech, Communication and Theatre Arts, Freshman Coordinator, Kimberly Brooks, have been collaborating with the Chairs and faculty of the Departments of Art and Design; Speech, Communication & Theatre Arts; Dance; and Music in designing and delivering the specific features of this academy.  They have been guided and supported by Susan Curtis, Director of New Student Enrollment, to whom all Freshman Coordinators report and Michele Cuomo, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, to whom all Faculty Coordinators report. Both Susan and Michele have dedicated their efforts this past year on the design and implementation of the Freshman Academies.

The VAPA Academy, designed for first year students in the arts, offers a cohesive and supportive learning environment for students beginning their college career.  The primary goal of the academy is to enable students to focus on learning and on their development as artists in order to improve their academic performance and persistence.  All VAPA Academy students will participate in two high impact learning experiences within their first 30 credits:  Cornerstone Courses and Writing Intensive Classes. 

Meet the Coordinators of the VAPA Academy
Read about their interaction with students, faculty
and each other
The Faculty Coordinator for the Visual and Performing Arts Academy, Georgia McGill, is an Associate Professor of Speech, Communication and Theatre Arts. Appointed to full professor this fall, Ms. McGill has been a full time faculty member at Queensborough since 1997, teaching Acting, Intro to Theatre, and speech communication courses. An experienced director, she has directed many Queensborough student productions including Jesus Hopped The A Train (which was a 2009 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Selection), Oedipus Rex, and The Trojan Women.

Freshman Coordinator, Kimberly Brooks has been a part of the Queensborough community since May of 2008. Before joining the Visual and Performing Arts Academy, Kim worked in Academic Advisement and New Student Enrollment. Kim is a graduate of Nassau Community College and earned her B.A. at Hofstra University where she was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. 

Professor McGill and Kimberly interact on a daily basis in their roles in the Freshman Academy, sharing experiences with students, consulting on faculty needs, and collaborating on how to approach individual student issues. In interviewing them for this article, the word "integration" came up again and again. Georgia McGill stated, "The VAPA Academy integrates the efforts of the four departments which comprise the academy by calling upon the chairs and faculty from the component programs to meet, collaborate and provide input in improving the success of our freshmen student artists."

"The Freshman Academy draws the student services closer to the academic objectives of students in a more personal and effective manner."
– Georgia McGill, Faculty Coordinator

The integration began right from the start of the fall semester at the Freshman First orientation and the VAPA Academy pizza party where students from different programs of study paired up before they could begin eating – to encourage interaction and incite creativity among artists. Faculty from all four disciplines also joined the party. Recalls Professor McGill, "There was a strong presence from both faculty and students at this event, allowing us all time to meet and chat informally.  As the classrooms for the arts are spread out across the campus, it was terrific for us all to have face-to-face time with each other."

Kimberly has experienced her own version of integration, having met with the Chairs, faculty and Professor McGill at the beginning of the semester to understand their department's educational objectives and priorities for student coursework. Professor McGill has observed that, "Kim successfully integrates the goals of the departments and the approaches of the faculty in the way she advises the VAPA Academy students."

The initial conversations that Kim had last fall are reinforced on a regular basis through her direct faculty interactions and the guidance she receives from Georgia McGill. Says Kimberly, "I know what's going on in the class – I know the faculty's objectives. I consult with Georgia or other faculty, so when the student comes to me with an issue, I can reaffirm what the faculty is trying to do and create more consistency in my advisement to the student."

"Because I have a specific caseload of students and know the visual and performing arts curriculum, I can carve out more time to make courses work for the student – facilitating their academic program to deliver what they want and need."
-  Kimberly Brooks, Freshman Coordinator

There are already several positive outcomes from the integration that has occurred. Because the Visual and Performing Arts Academy students are being identified at the point of enrollment, are being advised as a cohort, and, as first semester freshmen, are being advised by one individual - the Freshman Coordinator - Kimberly and Professor McGill are able to better articulate the students' specific academic needs to faculty and staff in ways that were not possible before.  "Because they are being placed in an academy, we have advance notice of the interests and needs of the students, so we can accommodate them and plan more proactively," states Professor McGill. "I am working with the Chairs to create VAPA-oriented class schedules now, so there will be sections of service courses that are scheduled according to VAPA students' needs."

"It is our hope that the varying resources of the College will be administered with a better understanding of the requirements of the academy's academic disciplines."
– Georgia McGill, Faculty Coordinator

Further, all ST-100 classes will be oriented to each of the six Freshman Academies in the fall, so the initial academic advisement will be more tailored to the needs of academy students.

Already, Professor McGill has seen less re-advisement from the first to the second semester, resulting in a smoother transition for students and less "falling through the cracks."  The Freshman Coordinator's single focus on their academy students can take some credit for this. "I do a lot of damage control for students," explains Kimberly, "I call them if t hey are going to be cancelled because of non-payment; I anticipate what they will run into that will push them off-track and call them about it."

What's in store for next semester? Professor McGill is meeting with the four Chairs of the VAPA Academy to plan the cornerstone courses for the fall semester. Serving as a foundational experience for a student to build their educational experience in that academy, the VAPA Academy cornerstone courses will include Music Technology, Acting 1, Music 120, Two Dimensional Design and History of the Dance.  For one of the high impact learning experiences, the team is looking at possibly designing a multi-disciplinary performance project - Integration at its best.
"Next Issue: Focus on the Education Academy!
Please address your questions or suggestion for a future topic to:  faq@qcc.cuny.edu. Your question will be answered via email and will be included in the next issue of FAQ.