MICA’s president: we’re back to a ‘new’ normal and planning for the future

Photo Courtesy of MICA

In its first full year of on-campus activity since the COVID pandemic shut it – and every other university – down in March 2020, Maryland Institute College of Art is fully open, with students and faculty back in the classrooms and visitors welcome.

“The fall semester feels very different from last fall, when we partially re-opened under strict health protocols, and certainly much better than the year before, when we had shut down and pivoted to online studies,” said Sammy Hoi, MICA’s president since 2014 and a Bolton Hill resident. While the school still monitors its health protocol needs, it has begun to resume public events and now welcomes visitors to exhibits and community students for open enrollment classes.

Enrollment and dormitory occupancy were impacted by the shutdown, particularly among international students confined to their home countries or unable to enter the U.S. because of COVID travel restrictions. Student enrollment is just under 2,000 now, down about 10 percent from its pre-pandemic peak. “We’re aiming for a healthy, gradual enrollment recovery,” Hoi said, with fewer international students so far but representing a greater range of countries. Chinese students are fewer, reflecting that country’s extended COVID policies as well as geopolitical tensions.

“We’re keeping in place some of the changes we made that worked well, so we have more hybrid classes available where faculty and students determine that works,” he said. However, most hands-on art and design classes and labs are in-person once again and reductions in staff and payrolls have been restored.

The Baltimore Banner painted a somewhat bleaker picture at the school.

MICA lays claim to being the nation’s oldest continuing degree-granting college of art. This month MICA’s board will consider a new strategic plan to take the school through its 2026 bicentennial. The planning began in 2018 but went on hiatus in the pandemic. Its overarching objective is to empower students to have the widest range of options to thrive and succeed in in art and design-centric careers in every economic and social sector.

The plan honors MICA’s non-profit roots and mission-driven ideals and stresses the differentiators in its arts education such as creative entrepreneurship. That includes emphasizing a return on investment for students and embracing diversity, equity, inclusion and global outreach. It also seeks to ensure the school’s affordability, growth and national and international culture. MICA will explore what it called new “scaffolding learning options.”

Finally, Hoi stressed MICA’s desire to continuing interaction with its neighbors, pointing to the presence of MICA security personnel as a factor in keeping students, staff and the neighborhood safe. “We have a symbiotic relationship,” he said. He said he loves living in Bolton Hill.

– Bill Hamilton