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School Spotlight: Institute of American Indian Arts

Institute of American Indian Arts
Emily Toffelmire

Written by Emily Toffelmireon April 27th, 2021

I came to College Coach after working for many years in college admissions and high school counseling. As a school counselor, I assisted students in the college application process and wrote hundreds of letters of recommendation, while also helping them and their families cope with any emotional, social, and academic concerns throughout the year. I transitioned from the high school setting to the admissions office when I joined the University of Southern California as an assistant director, reading freshmen and transfer applications and collaborating on admission decisions for over 150 majors, including the liberal arts, engineering, business, cinema, and the fine and performing arts. I subsequently took on the role of senior assistant director in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, where I coordinated the division's Mork, Stamps, Trustee, Presidential and Dean's merit scholarship selection process, as well as recruitment publications and outreach, and traveled everywhere from Honolulu to Miami presenting to and interviewing hundreds of applicants each year.
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There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. And while the media tends to focus on just a handful of schools, we at College Coach encourage students to think outside the box during their college selection process and explore a wide range of colleges. As such, we are highlighting a new college each week in our School Spotlight series. Check out the college below, along with the other posts in our series, and you may just stumble upon your dream school! School Spotlight: Institute of American Indian Arts Santa Fe, New Mexico Part of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) is a public tribal land-grant college and the world’s only institution of higher learning dedicated to contemporary Native American art. While over 800 students are enrolled, around 150 students attend IAIA full-time on campus, as the college offers robust online programs as well as a low-residency MFA in creative writing (which happens to count author Tommy Orange, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and the American Book Award, as an alumnus). Ninety-nine tribes are represented, and students come from 35 states. IAIA’s admissions office “welcomes all applications for admission. Non-American Indian applicants are evaluated by the same criteria as American Indian, Alaska Native and Canadian First Nations applicants. Admission is granted without regard to age, gender, race, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or religion.” In the words of its students, IAIA is “a community of artists and activists” that benefit from “supportive staff, internships” and “the tools to further expand [their] artistry.” IAIA is student-success-focused: tutoring, mentoring, achievement coaches, a financial literacy program, veteran enrollment services, and a weekly Talking Circle are all available for students. The college also offers strong holistic counseling services and encourages whole body wellness through the Performing Arts and Fitness Training Center, where students engage in a range of activities like conditioning, yoga, archery, and indoor cycling. The natural beauty of New Mexico is all around, and trips to national parks, hiking, camping, and stickball are common (and the impressive disc golf course is not to be missed). Traditional dorm-style campus housing is available, as is family housing. On-campus residents can find local produce, traditional Native dishes, and vegetarian and vegan options in the Bon Appetit café. IAIA primarily offers degrees at the associate and bachelor level, including the following:
  • The studio art program curriculum covers painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, ceramics, jewelry/metals, and digital art.
  • Creative writing students work in poetry, fiction, playwriting, screenwriting, journalism, and creative nonfiction.
  • Museum studies students can customize their degrees based on their interests, and they’ll also take part in an intensive internship program and complete a senior thesis that results in an actual exhibition.
  • The cinematic arts and technology program is well-equipped with high-definition digital cinema cameras, a broadcast studio, motion capture system, sound studio, 3D scanner, and “a fully articulating digital dome for immersive storytelling.”
  • The indigenous liberal studies program “integrates natural sciences, social studies, fine arts, traditional arts, and humanities with indigenous understanding.” Courses cover topics like traditional arts and ecology, Native American philosophy and art history, issues in education, and entrepreneurship.
  • Performing arts students can build their craft in the black box theater, dance studio, rehearsal hall, and a costume and design shop, as well as an outdoor performance space.
  • IAIA also offers certificates in museum studies, business and entrepreneurship, and Native American art history, all of which are available online.
IAIA is home to the excellent Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, which houses the 7,000 items that make up the National Collection of Contemporary Indian Art. Over at the Balzer Contemporary Edge Gallery, students are in charge, organizing exhibitions that are not only student-run but that feature the art of IAIA students. Balzer gives students a chance to enhance their own curating skills, which they can supplement through a conservation teaching lab in the Ells Science and Technology Building that provides hands-on training in art conservation. Campus also features a sculpture and foundry building that allows students to hone their skills in woodworking, welding, forging, casting, ceramics, and large scale metal, stone, and glass sculpture. Visit the site to learn more about admissions to IAIA, which offers current student panels, virtual info sessions, and virtual tours. You can also find more information about paying for an education at IAIA. Image Credit: Top, Courtesy of Institute of American Indian Arts Getting the Most Out of a College Visit


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