Yale Looks to Support the Next Leaders in the Arts

School of Architecture student Claudia Melniciuc

Claudia Melniciuc is passionate about her work. An Architecture student in the Class of 2008 and a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, Melniciuc says she chose to attend Yale because it offered an exceptional education and the freedom and support to figure out the kind of architect she wanted to be.

She says, “The way we are being taught to think about architecture at Yale is not only about making aesthetically pleasing buildings; it’s also about having an impact on the social and economic performance of our cities.” Recently back from a trip to China for her urban planning studio this semester with Alan Plattus, Professor of Architecture and Urbanism, Melniciuc is working on her midterm project sited in Shanghai. “Trying to figure out the role of architecture in a rapidly transforming economy is a very exciting challenge,” she says.

Sustaining a Unique Legacy in the Arts
Melniciuc’s experience is emblematic of Yale’s ability to influence the world of art—an influence that is unique among America’s great research universities. Graduates from Yale’s professional schools of Architecture, Art, Music, and Drama have achieved renown across the full range of artistic expression and serve as this nation’s cultural standard bearers. Chuck Close ’63, ’64 MFA, Scott Pask ’97 MFA, Nancy Graves ’62, ’64 MFA, Willie Ruff ’54 Mus.M., and Richard Rogers ’62 M.Arch., to name just a few, have contributed immeasurably to their communities and have changed the world with their work.

To continue this legacy, the Yale Tomorrow campaign is focused on several funding priorities in the arts and for the first time aims to fully endow financial aid in the arts schools. In the face of rising tuitions and competition for top students, this commitment is essential if the most talented artists are to enroll in Yale’s programs.

Art a Part of a “Larger Institutional Discourse”
Consider Jorge Gonzalez, a second-year painting and printmaking student in Yale’s School of Art. His studio at 353 Crown Street is adorned with the products of his talent—paintings, drawings, and an architectural redesign of his childhood home.

Mirroring this broad scope of artistic ability is Gonzalez’s keen interest in different fields. He came to Yale excited to be a part of a large university system. Gonzalez explains, “After being a part of a conservatory-type environment, it was really important for me to be exposed to a larger institutional discourse. I thought it would be very important in further informing my practice as an artist.” Currently, he is taking Introduction to Freud, taught by Germanic languages and literatures professor Rainer Nagele, and describes the course as “amazing.”

Jorge Gonzalez '08 MFAIn celebration of his work as an artist, Gonzalez received a prestigious Jacob Javits Fellowship, awarded to students with superior academic ability, selected on the basis of demonstrated achievement, financial need, and exceptional promise. Gonzalez was also chosen to be a part of the delegation of 100 Yale students, faculty, and administrators that traveled to China last May. “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It has been almost five months, and I still do not think I have completely digested the experience and what is has come to mean to me,” Gonzalez says about the trip.

Scholarships Attract Best and Brightest
The ability to provide meaningful financial aid for students like Gonzalez and Melniciuc is an ongoing priority for Yale. Without substantial endowment for financial aid, the schools of Architecture, Art, and Drama must fund student support largely through their operating budgets. Awards tend to be small, especially when compared to some of Yale’s peer institutions, and students make up the difference through borrowing.

Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern says, “As tuition increases, the competition for the most promising students is intensifying. In Architecture, even with scholarship awarded, the vast majority of our students fund their educations with significant loans—a situation that discourages some candidates from enrolling here. If we want the most creative students to study architecture with Yale’s world-renowned faculty, an increase in scholarship endowment is essential.”

Of equal concern is the debt burden of Yale alumni. Although more than eighty percent of these students receive financial aid, many graduates leave Yale’s professional schools with debt in excess of $60,000. Entering fields with low starting salaries, they face an immediate financial struggle. Yale graduates are skilled and poised for prolific careers; to lose them to higher paying fields because they cannot afford to practice their craft would be a profound loss for the art community and the world.

“For many architects and artists, the first years out of school can be very challenging. An increase in financial aid will ensure that the most talented and creative students can pursue their dreams without fear of future debt,” Stern says.

A Case for Support

The recent success of the School of Music provides a case study for financial aid in the art schools. Between 2002 and 2005, the School received between 600 and 800 applications for admission annually. Following a $100 million gift in 2005 from an anonymous donor—effectively granting full tuition remission to every student—applications for the 2007–2008 academic year jumped to 1,180 (9.6 percent were accepted). Faculty members comment that that it is not just the number that is impressive, but also the quality of the candidates.

In all its forms, art has the capacity to nourish the world. An increase in endowed scholarships ensures that the foremost creative talents attend Yale’s preeminent schools in Art, Architecture, and Drama, and following graduation, allows these leaders in their fields to grow and develop, unencumbered by the burdens of debt.

Building scholarship endowment for the schools of Art, Architecture, and Drama is an important part of the Yale Tomorrow campaign. To learn more about giving opportunities, please visit the Gift Guide.

(November 1, 2007)

November 1, 2007