KCAD and Ivy Tech collaborate to provide more students opportunities

Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and the Indiana-based Ivy Tech Community College system have signed an agreement that allows Ivy Tech environmental design students to complete their bachelor of fine arts degrees at KCAD. Cheryl King, Ivy Tech environmental design department chair, explains that Ivy Tech and KCAD curriculums align so closely that Ivy Tech students completing two years there can enroll as juniors in KCAD’s Interior Design program.

“We started having conversations to see how we could partner together. It has worked out so very well,” King says. “It really opens a lot of doors for our students who want to continue their educations.”

Though fairly small, Ivy Tech’s project-based program provides experiences that students will face in the field, coupled with a strong emphasis on drawing and sustainability. In addition, Ivy Tech’s South Bend campus is closer to KCAD than most Indiana colleges and universities offering comparable degrees — only an hour and a half away. According to King, they make a point of helping students achieve higher levels of education.

“That may start with a technical certification that gets their foot in the door or they can go on to earn a two-year associate of arts degree,” she says. “Going above and beyond, that’s where Kendall comes in and gets them into that opportunity for the bachelor of fine arts degree. It’s really a great opportunity for these students.”

While students do attend Ivy Tech as a first step after high school, the community college makes a point of supporting the substantial number of nontraditional students admitted to its programs. Many of these students are working one or two jobs in addition to attending college. More than 50 percent of its student body have income-challenges that qualify them for financial aid.

“A lot of [our students] are under-resourced coming in,” says Katherine M. Kent, Ivy’s vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Cheryl does a great job making sure there are open labs for students that might not have computers at home and tutoring.”

Ivy Tech saw two of its students graduate from KCAD before the agreement was in place. Carolyn Montgomery has gone on to a job with Haworth. Fernando Ramirez launched his career with Steelcase and then founded his own design start-up. He also teaches a couple of classes at Ivy Tech. With the formal collaboration in place, the hope is that even more Ivy Tech students will compete their educations at KCAD.

“Grand Rapids is a great town,” Kent says. “It’s culturally rich — and such a great city for design … job opportunities are tremendous.”

In addition to Ivy Tech, KCAD has agreements with Grand Rapids Community College’s Residential Construction program for Interior Design and Kalamazoo Valley Community College for graphic design.

“By blending the strengths of two programs focused on immersive, real-world learning and professional readiness, this agreement creates a powerful and accessible pathway to a wide variety of design careers,” says KCAD professor and interior design program chair, Lee Davis. “We are deeply impressed with Ivy Tech’s Environmental Design curriculum, and we’re confident that students will emerge from it with a broad perspective, diverse experiences, and heightened critical thinking skills that will enable them to thrive in KCAD’s Interior Design program and our creative community at-large.”

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