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Q and A with Brad Janis

by Mark Peres

October 7,2008

Brad Janis is president of The Art Institute of Charlotte. He has more than 20 years of education and business experience in the media arts. Prior to assuming his current position in March 2006, Mr. Janis served The Art Institute of California – Orange County as the vice president of academic affairs. Previously, he was the assistant dean of education at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and director of the school of design after serving as academic department director and faculty member for the computer animation/multimedia department his first two years at the school. Mr. Janis earned both his Master of Science Degree in Multimedia Technology, and Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology/Media Arts from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.

What does The Art Institute do?

We teach applied design. We are a design college that teaches students the applied arts. The education we offer has a career focus. Our mission is to give our students the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their chosen fields. Our largest programs in Charlotte reflect the heritage of the region: fashion marketing, interior design and graphic design. We also have programs in digital filmmaking, video production, photography, and culinary arts management. We offer bachelors of arts and associate of applied science degrees. Our accreditation is from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).

Who are your students?

Our students are creatives. They are the people who bring art and innovation to the world. We have about 70 industry-experienced faculty who are professionally active in their fields. They work intimately with our students to explore color theory, balance, composition and functionality in their fields of expression. We have small classes, a 20:1 student-faculty ratio, an open-door policy to administration and regular exhibits and open houses showcasing the talent in the College. And we work very intently to make sure that all our students have career opportunities upon graduation.

How many students are you serving?

We have just over 1000 students taking classes in our degree programs this fall. Our goal is to triple that number, and serve approximately 3500 students. Our campus is located at the LakePointe Plaza office park in southwest Charlotte. Right now our campus is composed of two buildings featuring a library, art gallery, eight computer labs, three instructional kitchens, classrooms, studios and labs; but we are able to expand within the office park and link buildings and facilities together as we grow. My job is to ensure we are providing value to our students while growing our campus and meeting our goals.

The Art Institute has over 40 campuses nationwide, and is opening a new campus in Durham. Is there any danger of cannibalizing your market?

No. We determined there was a big opportunity in opening our branch campus in Durham. More and more students wishing to pursue a degree in the applied arts were traveling across the state to Charlotte. We thought opening a branch campus would be a superb way to meet the needs of the students in eastern North Carolina. Additionally, we plan to strategically offer different programs at the two campuses in order to better meet the needs of the areas in which the campuses are located.

The Art Institute is a for-profit college. How is the culture of attracting and retaining students different than at a not-for-profit university?

Being for-profit in today’s economy actually has an advantage over not-for-profits. It allows us to reinvest in our most important asset – our students. Our faculty development program as well as our investment in our campus infrastructure such as classrooms, teaching labs, and library is evident when one walks around the campus. This helps to attract and retain our students. Additionally, our mission is to educate our students in a career-focused environment, and everything we do here has that end in mind. Because of this mission and the continuous reinvestment of resources, students who inquire about and attend The Art Institute are more focused on their academic goals than students who may attend a traditional university. For example, The Art Institute does not offer an undeclared major, so our students begin studies in their program of choice on the very first day of classes. These are just two ways we are different.

What would you like The Art Institute to do better?

Our first job is to educate better designers. The world lacks good designers – people who can solve problems visually. We teach our students how to create art for someone else, not simply for themselves. We see our second job as educating contributing citizens, and there we can always do better. We want our students serving each other and the community – thinking globally and acting locally.

What’s your view on the state of design in Charlotte?

Charlotte is becoming more cosmopolitan and more open to new design. Some of the architecture visible today lends itself to a more modern city image. I’m very optimistic with the new construction, the influences of new people moving here from all over, the change in the landscape architecture and design we’re beginning to see everywhere. The public art at Whitehall with the water element, the Afro-American Culture Center design, the new Bechtler Museum – they’re adding a whole new flavor that makes people want to stop, look, and say this is really a different city. I’d like to see more preservation of the really good, historic design, and more of a Pacific Rim/European influence. I believe schools like ours open up a city to more thinking outside the box.

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