Undergraduate Outreach Initiative Planned for CAA in Chicago

In March 2019, the AHTR Weekly launched its Student Voices series with Alejandra Cervantes’s reflection on her experience attending CAA’s Annual Conference in New YorkHer essay brings important perspective that is too often missing in conversations about diversity and equity in higher education. Cervantes’s comments remind faculty–especially those of us well past our undergraduate years–of the joys and the very real concerns that students face when pursuing their academic and professional goals. 

This year CAA has planned a number of events to help undergrads like Cervantes navigate and network with professionals at the upcoming Annual Conference in Chicago from February 12-15, 2019. Below are some details of how undergraduate attendees will be able to meet one another; seek career advice from emerging and established arts professionals; and share their own research with the many scholars, artists, and students in attendance. 

In an effort to ease some of the costs of conference travel, most of the undergraduate events will be concentrated on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14-15, although many sessions scheduled throughout the week will be appropriate for undergraduates who attend the full conference. Also, many of the workshops and roundtable discussions will take place Friday in the SEPC Lounge, which is free and open to the public.

CAA’s Undergraduate Outreach Initiative has been spearheaded by CAA’s Education Committee, in collaboration with the Committee for Diversity Practices, the Students and Emerging Professionals Committee, and the Arts and Humanities Division at CUR (The Council on Undergraduate Research). This initiative, organized for 2020, is intended as a pilot program in hopes that undergraduate participation in CAA will continue to grow, and the needs of these students be better addressed. For more information, or if you’d like to be involved in CAA’s Undergraduate Outreach Initiative, contact Virginia Spivey, Chair of the Education Committee.  

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research (UR) is defined broadly as an original contribution by an undergraduate to knowledge or practice in their field, mentored by a more senior practitioner such as a faculty member, instructor, or advanced graduate student. Although central to visual art, design, and art history pedagogies, this process has not always been appreciated as “research” as such. The move by CAA to include UR in the Annual Conference marks an important turn towards understanding the connection between scholarship and teaching. 

Decades of data show that UR is one of the most effective of the much vaunted “high impact practices” in retention of at-risk student populations, especially underrepresented groups such as first-generation college students and non-traditional students. Scholars exploring student success in higher education, including David Lopatto, George Kuh, and Marcus Fechheimer, have noted that–across disciplines–students who have substantial engagement in the real work of their field through structured and mentored research experiences thrive where others may not. 

It doesn’t take data, however, to make a convincing case:  just observe any student who has gotten their teeth into a project, and their passion and energy speak for themselves. When research is driven by genuine passion, rather than by an abstract set of parameters that apply equally to all the students in a class, creativity and critical thought take flight. Whether in the context of a course or outside the traditional classroom, UR provides students with a taste of what it’s really like to practice in a field. The opportunity to share their experience with scholars and artists at CAA offers students additional insight into the ways professionals might engage in scholarly discourse and intellectual exchange at academic conferences.   

UR Programming at CAA

Lightning and Thunder:
Practice and Impact of Undergraduate Research in Art and Art History

Friday, Feb. 14  4pm

Chaired by Sara Orel, a member of CUR and Professor of Art and Art History at Truman State University, this panel session will feature students giving short presentations about their ambitious research, followed by a discussion with the students and their mentors sharing their different perspectives on the Undergraduate Research process. 

Undergraduate Research Poster Session (See the CFP here)
*Deadline for submissions is October 31, 2019*
Time TBA

Chaired by Alexa Sand, Director of CUR’s Arts and Humanities Division, and Professor of Art History at Utah State University, this poster session will feature Undergraduate Research in art history, visual arts, and design. It provides an interactive forum for undergraduate researchers to present their work to others at the conference through an informative poster format. It also offers an opportunity for conference attendees to engage the students and their mentors on questions about the UR mentoring relationship, models of and best-practices for becoming more active as UR mentors, ways to integrate student voices more thoroughly into CAA’s professional environment, and other topics of interest.  


Undergraduate Programming in the SEPC Lounge

CAA’s Students and Emerging Professionals Committee (SEPC) has included events, specially designed for undergraduate students (see below), as part of this year’s SEPC Lounge, a regular feature at CAA’s Annual Conference for anyone interested in careers related to the visual arts, design, and art history. 

Located on the Lower Level of the Hilton Chicago, SEPC Lounge programs and workshops are offered for free and open to the public. In addition to the programs detailed below, undergrads should be sure to visit the SEPC Lounge throughout the conference as a good place to meet other students, ask recent graduates for advice, seek mentoring from young professionals, and learn more about academic options and pathways for careers in the arts.    

SEPC Lounge Programs for Undergraduates (and others!) 

What’s Next? Long-Term Career Planning (Roundtable Discussion)
Thursday, Feb. 13    2:30pm – 3:30pm

Decisions about the future can be anxiety-inducing: Pursue an advanced degree, or find immediate employment? Will graduate school limit career options, or build transferable skills? What are some resources to support informed decisions? Experienced voices provide their perspectives and field your questions. This program is not designed specifically for undergrads, but may still be of interest. 

Portfolio Development for Undergrads (Workshop)
Friday, Feb. 14    12pm – 1pm

An intro to creating a cohesive visual art portfolio for applying to schools, jobs, or shows. We will be going over all the basics, from best practices in photographing your work to the dreaded artist statement. This session is geared toward undergrads, but all are welcome.

Professional Writing Skills for Undergrads (Workshop)
Friday, Feb. 14    1:30pm – 2:30pm

Get ready to apply to graduate programs, internships, and funding by sharpening your writing skills. This session is geared toward undergrads, but all are welcome

Teaching Art History to GenZ students (Roundtable Discussion)
Friday, Feb. 14   3pm – 4pm

This open discussion will address issues related to teaching and learning in art history.  This session is planned for instructors, but the organizers invite undergraduate participation as an opportunity for feedback and exchange.

Meme-ing the Masters (Roundtable Discussion)
Friday, Feb. 14    4:30pm – 5:30pm

How do millennials use their knowledge of the arts in the digital age? What is gained or lost by popular formats? Striking a balance between rigor and revelry. This session is geared toward faculty, but undergrads are welcome.  

More to come . . .

Efforts are still underway to organize an informal undergrad meet-up and find other ways for undergraduate students to connect at the conference, so continue to check CAA for updates in the coming months!

Editors’ Notes:

Thanks to Alexa Sand for contributing to the discussion on Undergraduate Research and its importance at CAA.  

This post has been edited to correct an error in the scheduled times for certain sessions. 

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