How On-campus Visits Can Help Online Students
For a group of new Drexel students, the typical “first day of school” jitters came a little early this year. Rather than virtually meeting their professors and classmates via email and Blackboard later in the month, the newest enrollees of the online Master of Science in Arts Administration program found themselves face-to-face with one another during a four-day residency on Drexel’s University City Campus early this September. But how did a bunch of online students find themselves interacting with each other in the real world, let alone in Drexel’s home city?
First, a little background: Drexel’s Master of Science in Arts Administration program, which is taught and administrated by the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, aims to prepare students for leadership roles in arts and culture, whether that involves managerial work, marketing, fundraising or anything in between. It “fuses entrepreneurship, business acumen, and social science with the arts industry,” according to the program’s website. Students receive the benefits of “Drexel’s multi-disciplinary approach through a class structure that incorporates three integral branches of the arts: research, policy, and practice.” There is an on-campus as well as an online option for completing the program.
The MS in Arts Administration program is one of the longest-running programs of its kind in the nation. Which makes sense when you consider that Philadelphia has, in recent years, been named something of a cultural hub. The entire point of an online graduate degree, however, is the ability to complete the coursework remotely. So the challenge became how to give online students the full experience of the program regardless of their location, while still allowing them to experience the art and culture scene unique to Drexel and Philadelphia. Enter the MS in Arts Administration residency program.
“The residency introduces students to Drexel, to the program, to the coursework and to the professors. Even more important, students are introduced to the vibrant cultural community of Philadelphia, which their courses will draw upon, and to each other,” said Dr. Jean Brody, Director of the Online Graduate Program in Arts Administration. “Online students come to the program with a great variety of backgrounds and arts experiences, and contribute immensely to each other’s education and to supporting each other professionally.”
Students who begin in the fall are required to attend a four-day residency in Philadelphia at the beginning of their first term in the program. (Students can opt to start the program during the Winter term, which has an optional one-day on-campus orientation in the first week of the term.) The residency is packed with lectures, advising sessions and visits to local cultural spots (this year students visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art, took a trolley tour to view West Philadelphia’s murals and watched a FringeArts performance), culminating in student project presentations.
“That whole week gave me a different perspective of Philadelphia that I really enjoyed,” said Manda Gorsegner, a 2016 graduate of the program who is now starting her own New Jersey-based art and environmental nonprofit called Sea of Anchors. “I came back to Jersey and was telling everyone, ‘You really need to see this side of Philly!’”
The residency gives online students the benefit of Drexel’s inclusion in the vibrant Philadelphia arts scene while still allowing them to complete the rest of the program remotely. Despite the logistics of having to travel to Philadelphia, students often praise the multiple benefits of the residency.
“My favorite aspect was when we did the forum with the recent alum from the program,” said Zipporah Lockett, a new student who attended the residency in September. “I was a little nervous about balancing my life with the work. Hearing their experience and how the program tied into their careers made me feel a lot better. If they made it through, I definitely can.”
For many students, the ability to meet their classmates and professors in-person is a major perk of the residency. Lockett was happy to have the opportunity to spend some time with the classmates that would be going through the program with her. “I feel like we are all in this together and I'm not alone. Having a face to be able to put to the people I'm interacting with online in class is refreshing,” she said.
For Gorsegner, one of the most beneficial aspects of the residency was the time she was able to spend with her professors. “I felt a bigger sense of community with three key professors who I talked to the entire two years and really relied on,” she explained, noting that her relationship with these professors started during her residency.
When asked if she had any advice for those students looking forward to the start of their own residency, Gorsegner shared, “Let your responsibilities and priorities at home go for the week and just come with a clear head and a willingness to participate and jump in and jump out of your comfort zone. It’s just for a week. I know that can be challenging for some people. I’m introverted and ambitious and it’s a challenge to talk to all new people, but you have to remember that everyone’s in the same situation. So just getting to know the people around you, just talking about your history and why you’re there, I think is really interesting and important.”
For more information on the MS in Arts Administration program, visit their program page.