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How Minors at Otis College Help Prepare Students for Thriving Creative Careers

Printmaking at Otis College of Art and Design
Students have pursued minors to expand their interest in a particular field, gain knowledge in an additional field, and even work towards a teaching credential in the arts.
Anna Raya 

For the first time, Interdisciplinary Studies seniors will be included in Otis College’s Annual Exhibition and show their work alongside the seven undergraduate and two graduate departments as part of O-Launch ’22, the end-of-the-year celebration of graduating students and their work. Of the 52 Interdisciplinary Studies seniors—students who declare a minor in addition to their major program—15 will be featured on the third floor of Ahmanson Hall from Monday, May 9 through Sunday, May 15, with an opening reception on Wednesday, May 11 from 5:00–6:00 p.m. Their minors range from Art History and Entrepreneurship to Sustainability and Book Arts. 

Students in the Interdisciplinary Studies program, which is headed by founding Director Michele Jaquis, “hone a broad range of skills and knowledge, ultimately developing an art and design practice that is grounded in two or more disciplines, or situated defiantly in-between,” Jaquis says. Students can select from 17 minors, which are designed to either give students a taste of another major program or area of interest offered at the College (i.e. Digital Media, Product Design), or provide study in subjects that aren’t offered as majors, such as Creative Writing, Printmaking, and Sustainability. There’s also the Artists Community Teaching program, which includes minors in Community Arts Engagement and Teacher Credential Preparation that, when combined with a Fine Arts major, qualifies students to waive the California Subject Exam for Teachers (CSET) in Art.

The variety and breadth of the minors allow students to become more well-rounded in preparation for entering the job market, learn how to start their own business, or dive deeper into topics that align with their values as artists and designers. 

“I chose Sustainability as my minor because I am majoring in Fashion Design, and the fashion industry is one of the most polluted industries and is damaging the environment in so many ways—that is not the type of designer I wish to become,” says senior Farhan Fallahifirooz. “I wanted to learn and research sustainability so I can be a better fashion designer by being aware of how the designs I create, and the decisions I make, can affect the world.”

Aaron Harold Mazlin, a senior who is majoring in Product Design and minoring in Entrepreneurship, never thought he’d have the wherewithal to launch his own company. “But critiquing our pitches during class helped me focus my dream for making a business, and helped create a pitch that will be effectively communicated to investors,” he says. “Each class has given me knowledge that I don’t think I could have easily found elsewhere. I learned about creating a pitch deck, executive summary, financing, fundraising, business accounting, and company formation. After school I will have the knowledge and presentation skills to be able to form a company, pitch my business to investors, and move forward in creating it.” 

The Entrepreneurship minor graduated its first class in Spring 2021. With funding from an anonymous foundation, some of these students received seed money to cover legal fees and web hosting to launch their new creative businesses. They also competed for start-up funds of between $1,000 to $15,000. Last year, Mirna Kamel (’21 BFA Product  Design, Entrepreneurship) won the top award of $15,000 for her company Gentle Design, LLC, which aims to provide design services for educators and parents of school-aged children with cognitive difficulties.

Jaquis says Sustainability and Entrepreneurship are among the most popular minors, and that the biggest number of students—particularly those majoring in Digital Media and Communication Arts—minor in Creative Writing. 

“Before even transferring to Otis, I knew I wanted to minor in Creative Writing,” says senior Anissa Marie Kriz, who’s majoring in Digital Media with an emphasis in Animation. “Animation deals with storytelling. Character design, storyboarding, and visual development all begin with a story. I am hoping that, post-graduation, I will be able to find work as an artist, of course, but I feel that the skills I learned in Creative Writing could expand the possible job opportunities I could have within the animation industry.” 

Jaquis says the typical Interdisciplinary Studies student is interested in more than one media, discipline, or subject. “In any given year we have 10 to 16 students pursuing a double minor,” she says. “It goes without saying that our typical student is driven, engaged, and high achieving.”

“I am excited to see the culminating work by students in the Interdisciplinary Studies program,” says Provost Jiseon Lee Isbara. “Students who explore a variety of interests will develop the skills to make connections between ideas across different disciplines and also influence others to cross-pollinate and be creative. In the current and future creative economy, these are essential skills our students will gain from this program.”

Students receive academic plans that map out how their minor fits into their major, semester by semester, as well as ongoing academic advising to make sure they are on track to complete their full degree. “We also offered a new course this Spring, Interdisciplinary Creative Pathways, taught by instructor Patricia Kovic,” Jaquis says, adding that it “helped students identify and navigate their first professional steps after graduation when the pursuit of studies outside of their major provides more than one possible direction. This can inform their practice and provide wider career options… Diversification is key.  It means you are qualified for more than one type of job or career, therefore you have more possibilities.”

Main image: Photo by Monica Nouwens/Otis College of Art and Design. 

To find out more about the Interdisciplinary Studies program, please visit this link. For information about Otis College Admissions, please visit otis.com/admissions.