Innovation Takes No Breaks


By Casey Hilder


A plethora of new and exciting graduate certificates available through the College of Communication and Fine Arts offers fresh ways to get started on creative endeavors

A new emphasis on a variety of graduate certificate programs within the College of Communication and Fine Arts means that prospective students are able to get a jump start on their chosen career path and advantage over the competition with just a few concentrated courses.

“There are a number of different ways that grad certificates can prove beneficial,” said Brian Sweeney, career specialist with the College of Communication and Fine Arts. “They can strengthen or develop skills and expertise in a field that someone might have minimal exposure to without committing to what may be an expensive and lengthy graduate program.”

CCFA currently offers a variety of graduate certificates, including Arts Entrepreneurship, Museum Studies, Vocology, Social Media Analysis and Strategies, Multimedia Storytelling, Entrepreneurial Journalism and an Artist Diploma in Music.

“I think in particular, earning a graduate certificate can be a game changer if you’re someone who is looking to move your career in a certain direction and position yourself to be successful,” said Sweeney.

The newest among CCFA graduate certificate offerings is the Arts Entrepreneurship Graduate Certificate, a program geared toward creatives who wish to launch their own business related to the arts. The program focuses on helping artistically minded individuals who already have a core idea for a potential business build and develop their plans in a meaningful way.

“This is a brand-new initiative that’s sponsored by the CCFA,” said Dr. Ryan Fisher, associate dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts. “We coordinated the planning and development from people within various CCFA departments and community arts leaders and entrepreneurs to form the core curriculum.”

The fully-online graduate certificate, which consists of 12 credit hours spread across four seven-week courses, aims to support the development and articulation of arts startups, incubators and other forms of entrepreneurship in order to build a creative community.

“The idea behind it is that we bring in individuals who already have some type of idea that they’re looking to get off the ground,” said Fisher. “We walk them through the full development of an idea — from the business model to the action plan, product development — and also work to build a sense of community by linking mentors with the cohort of students.”

The course format behind the certificate allows room for guest presenters from a lengthy list of successful local arts entrepreneurs, which will hopefully lead to greater opportunities for participants.

“Our hope is that this course will culminate in a formal pitch for someone to invest in a student’s business,” said Fisher. “The idea is that this will eventually lead to a yearly arts entrepreneurship conference where we’ll see these individuals present their ideas in front of the general public as well.”

Todd Richardson, president of Crosstown Redevelopment Cooperative and former associate professor of art history at the University of Memphis, served as one of several members of the development committee behind the Arts Entrepreneurship Graduate Certificate alongside Fisher and Dean Anne Hogan.

“The core of creating art is creating something new, something that doesn’t exist yet,” said Richardson. “So when you do that — just like when starting a new small business — there needs to be some kind of training on how to go about vetting those new things, how to build a base, and how to really sell what you’re creating all while getting critical feedback along the way. This certification goes past the ordinary creative training in terms of helping students understand that what they’re doing after college will be far beyond just making something, although that remains the most important step.”

In addition to the new and developing Arts Entrepreneurship Graduate Certificate, CCFA’s Museum Studies Graduate Certificate recently shifted to a fully-online delivery through UofM Global.

A Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies prepares students who are currently enrolled in or hold advanced degrees to enter museum professions. The program is administered jointly by the College of Communication and Fine Arts and the College of Arts & Sciences. The course of study is tailored to each student’s career objectives in consultation with the program coordinator, Dr. Leslie Luebbers, director of the Art Museum at the University of Memphis (AMUM).

“As of late, museums have increasingly used their assets — collections, knowledge, skills and spaces — to promote positive community changes,” said Luebbers. “AMUM, for example, has collaborated with groups devoted to social justice, youth leadership, disability services, climate activism, immigrant services and neighborhood development.”

The interdisciplinary program welcomes individuals from all fields, including art, anthropology, archaeology, art history, biology, design, history, business, education, geology, graphic design, media studies, communication and public administration. The program prepares students for museum administration, education, collection management, registration, curation and public program development. In addition, students become acquainted with best practices and ethics as defined by national and international museum associations and learn about the changing role of the museum in the cultural landscape.