As the 2022–23 academic year ended we gathered for our annual recognition ceremony to celebrate our graduates. This year we enjoyed a new and larger venue on campus – the Musical Arts Center on Eagleson Avenue, just south of the Mies van der Rohe Building. Over the last six years, attendance at this culminating event has grown from approximately 400 to over 1000 beaming friends and family members.
We, too, could not be prouder of each of our graduate’s accomplishments. We are also very proud that the Eskenazi School has been the incubator for their ideas, creations, and personal growth. This class is very special in many ways, but their perseverance and resilience stand out above all other qualities that I might use to describe them as a group. That’s because they are our “pandemic class.” This is the cohort that were first-year students in the fall of 2019, and who had to vacate campus in such short order in March of 2020. Years of their college experience were disrupted and forever altered. And yet, through all of that they stood strong, created community, and successfully learned, advanced, and evolved. It was just a few years, but it felt like a lifetime for many, including the faculty and staff. I’m sure our graduates might feel like a whole different people, or maybe just more realized versions of themselves.
They learned new ways to make things, to communicate visually, to think about their work in the context of the world. They met mentors who took an authentic interest in their work, became invested in their success, and prodded them to dig deeper. In time, they summoned the bravery to speak in their own voice, gained conviction about their ideas, and developed the skills to support their execution. They undertook a rigorous apprenticeship with some of the greatest names in our fields, gleaning ideas and techniques born of our programs’ storied legacies, some dating back 130 years.
And they learned to contribute to the global conversation, producing ideas and artwork addressing the most pressing issues of our time – social injustice, climate change, poverty, and so much more. They discovered how much the world needs their creativity and innovation to solve those and many other problems – addressing the challenges of today and anticipating those of our future.
They’ll take that fine training into their first jobs and advanced degree programs. Certainly, there will be challenges. Some people are concerned about the economy, politics, or this pesky “new thing” called AI that is “poised to wipe out all the creative jobs.” With all due respect, they’ve got this!
For one thing, students here at the Eskenazi School have spent the last semester diving into artificial intelligence and learning how the tools it offers might complement or enrich their creative process – and what it simply can’t do. We’ve dived into the global conversation on the subject with our team-taught course “AI in the Studio” and a series of roundtables led by our team and colleagues at Notre Dame.
Eskenazi students embrace the possibilities of innovation instead of avoiding them, assured in the knowledge that the human spirit is the spark, the driver, and the abiding essence of any meaningful enterprise. Perhaps even more than others, we creatives know in our bones that our humanity is not a vestigial trait.
On the contrary, this month’s graduates have spent their time at this school bringing their humanity to bear – together with all the latest knowledge, tools, and techniques in problem solving.
I’d like to thank the entire Eskenazi School community for their dedication and innovation. As you will find on our school news and faculty research pages, they continue to move their research, creative activity, teaching, learning, and service forward in powerful ways.
I hope you and yours are well. Please stay in touch with us either virtually or in person.