Diversity Critical to Ringling College Mission

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Ringling College: Ringling faculty member Seongwoo Nam (left) and Dr. Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, presented at the Ringling College exhibition hosted by Seoul Institute of the Arts in South Korea.

It’s hard to believe that our fall semester and the 2023-‘24 academic year is already in full swing at Ringling College of Art and Design. Reflecting on this past summer, it was a busy and productive one filled with excitement for the year ahead. From mid-June to mid-July, Ringling College’s PreCollege program was a huge success where we welcomed 216 high school students for a four-week, residential learning experience. On August 21, the first official day of fall semester, we welcomed a new class of over 500 incoming students. And of course, welcomed back our returning students, all talented artists and designers, for a record enrollment of approximately 1,730.

At present, international students make up 22 percent of the entire student population. They come from 60 countries around the world, including Argentina, Belgium, China, Denmark, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. We are also a proud member of the United World College (UWC) Scholar Program, and are currently hosting over 40 Davis Scholars again this year.  

Diversity is so important to us at Ringling College and integral to our mission. We are committed to providing a multicultural learning environment that celebrates our students’ unique qualities, inclusivity, and peer-to-peer support. Creating this kind of environment is made possible through our domestic efforts to increase minority student enrollment, and also by our deep focus on international student engagement. While many institutions tend to push their international recruitment solely for the financial gains—in general, out-of-state and/or international students pay higher tuition fees—we recruit for the cultural benefits. As a private institution, every student at Ringling College is responsible for the same level of tuition, prior to their individual financial aid and scholarships packages. 

As part of the College’s ongoing efforts to further our global reach and partnerships, I traveled with two team members for two weeks in June back to South Korea for the first time since 2019, pre-pandemic. As President of a leading art and design institution in the U.S., I was honored to be invited to speak with prominent members of the arts and higher education communities, prospective high school students, and the media whilst in Seoul. For example, I participated in a panel discussion with President Yoo Tae-gyun of Seoul Institute of the Arts, one of the nation’s leading performing and visual arts institutions, on the importance of creativity—more so now more than ever before—and we discussed topical themes such as the implementation of AI and what this technology means for the future of art and design. 

An impressive exhibition of Ringling student artwork was featured at Seoul Institute of the Arts, displaying work across all 13 majors with video reels showcasing Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Motion Design, and Virtual Reality Development. A memorandum of understanding was signed between our two institutions, promising collaborative research activities, academic program cooperation, and exchanges between instructors and students including visits and internship opportunities. 

During the trip, the team and I traveled to multiple high schools from Seoul to Busan, to speak with students about the importance of creativity. My favorite day though, was our Accepted Student Day. With over 200 people in attendance, the event celebrated over 30 new students and their families, as well as 30 current students and their families. The new students accounted for nearly 100% of Ringling’s incoming students from mostly South Korea, some traveling from as far as Busan in the south of the country, and even from Shanghai, China for the celebration.

This is such an important and pivotal time for art and design in higher education and its professions. As we enter this new and exciting era—the Creative Age—the skills of imagination, innovation, and authentic creativity will be paramount. It was an honor to have the opportunity to discuss these topics with our peer leaders in such an incredible and progressive country like South Korea. I truly believe that so much of Ringling College’s strength, and the high quality of our education and campus environment comes from our overall diversity, including our international diversity. Cultivating these relationships and welcoming students from around the globe is another stepping stone on our path to becoming the preeminent art and design college in the world. 

Dr. Larry Thompson is President of Ringling College of Art & Design.

Photo courtesy Ringling College: Ringling faculty member Seongwoo Nam (left) and Dr. Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design, presented at the Ringling College exhibition hosted by Seoul Institute of the Arts in South Korea.

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