I happen to be in the great position as an alumni of Columbia and also a full-time staff member supervising students after I graduated.
I can only speak for myself and what drew me to Columbia, but I can assume I'm not alone in my feelings. As I was looking for graduate schools in 2006, I wanted something that would offer me experience and an open door to a very specific field, youth media. Columbia had just started the AYCD (Arts with Youth and Community Development) program, out of then AEMM, and was the only program in the nation that would put me in organizations I had followed for years but could never find an opportunity to get in and work, even volunteer. AYCD would allow me to be paid for this experience and my classes would help me with real skills and issues that executive directors faced, like the legal issues with working with underaged students, payroll, marketing, development and fundraising, and strategic plans and organizational missions. It was a dream to find such an opportunity and I would gladly pay for an education that helped me secure a job and skills for my future, one built on my values and passion. Unfortunately, AYCD no longer existed when I finally entered into graduate school, but the AEMM program made sure that I was still receiving the courses behind the experience. CCAP stepped in to give me the hands-on experience I was disappointed I would no longer get through the program itself.
I was hired as a student worker for a program called TEAM (Transforming Education through the Arts and Media), a project that I felt ready and eager to take on as it fit well with my experience in youth media and education, my bachelors from Antioch College in Youth Media and Social Change, and what I hoped to gain at Columbia, shooting me into a successful career. Since then I have become the manager of that program, successfully meeting all of the requirements for our DOE grant.
While at my job at CCAP as a student assistant, I was able to put all of my coursework into perspective. It gave my education purpose. Rather than going back to notes once I finally did land a job in my field, I was able to use it immediately, without hesitation.
Columbia and CCAP gave me the network I was looking for. I felt lost in traversing my field before entering my program. I found a perfect position with CCAP, met colleagues who nurtured my growth, and felt secure in my choice of career to explore inside and outside the theory of my work.
While I view undergraduate education as a place to explore knowledge on deep levels, both new and known, graduate school was a place to firm up my decision for a future career. Without a chance to work in my field thanks to Columbia and CCAP, I’m not sure the program would have appealed to me as much. Graduate school would have seemed too costly if I wasn’t going to get an immediate network and job possibilities.
As I supervise both undergraduate and graduate students, I want to ensure that they also get the chance to use working with CCAP as a place to explore careers and use what they are learning in the classroom. It is my goal that none of the students see their position as a place to only clock their hours, but instead experience what our field in arts education can be for them. Without that unique experience, many of our students can go to places more affordable. Ultimately, it is our connection with departments like CCAP and CPS and other organizations that draw students to the school. We must continue to provide students with hands-on opportunities to put their education into practice and make that cycle of learning complete.