How graphic design is managing with one full-time faculty member

This year, Keene State College’s graphic design program is working with only one full-time faculty member.

Before the start of the new academic year, KSC’s graphic design program lost two of its three full-time faculty members. After the departure of former department chair Yuan Pan and graphic design professor Robert Kostick, Randall Hoyt now serves as the only full-time faculty member of the graphic design program.

“Two of our faculty members retired, and they’re essential to the program. So it just leaves me to be the principal tenured faculty in charge. So that’s a significant change,” Hoyt said.

This semester, Hoyt is teaching a total of four courses, as opposed to his typical schedule of three courses. Adjunct faculty Heather Gendron and Vernon Thornblad are taking on part of the program course load, but a majority will be taught by Hoyt.

Going into the fall semester, two graphic design courses were cancelled, as no faculty were able to teach them. Senior Crow Marcinuk, who was enrolled in one of those courses for the fall semester, said he needed to rearrange his schedule last minute as a result of the cancellation. “It was kind of a mad scramble,” Marcinuk said. “I had to change around my whole schedule to fit that. It was very last minute [and] very inconvenient.”

However, art and design department chair Jonathan Gitelson said the students were the focus throughout the process of course cancellations. Gitelson said he made it a priority to be “working with students to make sure that won’t affect their ability to graduate and to move through our program.”

To avoid further course cancellations, Hoyt picked up two fall semester courses that were previously taught by Pan and Kostick: motion design and identity design. To prepare for these courses, Hoyt said he did research on the subjects and drew from his own experience working in the graphic design field.

“It’s looking back into my own portfolio, it’s looking at the portfolio of other designers, it’s trying to find references or readings that might help students understand beyond the lectures or workshops,” Hoyt said.

As a result of Hoyt picking up extra classes, many graphic design students have Hoyt for a majority, if not all, of their graphic design courses this semester. However, junior Grace Robitaille does not feel restrained as a student by having the same professor multiple times a week.

“I honestly don’t think I’m limited because, yeah, it’s nice learning from other professors, but I know that Randall is a really great professor,” Robitaille said. “He teaches in the same way but at the same time, it’s a different topic, so it’s learning something new every time.”

Marcinuk said, despite the rocky start to the year with faculty transitions, the program is in capable hands. “Randall [Hoyt] really does know his stuff and I learn a lot in his classes,” Marcinuk said.

Going forward, Hoyt is hoping to bring in guest faculty members to help fill the gaps left by Pan and Kostick. That search for guest artists is already underway. “We have a search out right now to bring in a new adjunct faculty member for next semester,” Gitelson said.

Hoyt said bringing in new faculty is becoming a priority for the department in order to provide different perspectives for the students to learn from.

“The plan is to bring in people who have experience in the field and who want to get into teaching and have them provide a real diverse experience, because having one professor for everything, even somebody who can teach all the things like I can teach, is not ideal. We need to get in some fresh voices,” Hoyt said.

Gitelson echoed this sentiment, “I think every cloud has a silver lining… Both of the people who left were really important to our program. The silver lining would be that different people will come through the program as a result, and if it’s a guest designer for a semester, that brings us new perspectives.”

There is an overarching sense of optimism from both faculty and students for the future of the program, even after all the change it has undergone this year. “I’m glad that we have the people that we have. I hope they’re just not so stressed. I feel like they’re doing good so far,” Robitaille said.

Hoyt added, “Some things that happened, nobody could foresee and have been unfortunate financially, but when we come up for air, I’m just really counting on the administration to see the vibrancy of the program and to support it with faculty lines of resources.”

Through the process of losing faculty and the search for new ones, Gitelson emphasized the importance of remaining committed to the students. “We are committed to our students and making sure that they get the education we think they should get. Despite all this, I don’t feel that the quality is lessened,” Gitelson said.

Upon reflection, Hoyt found a connection between the field of graphic design and the situation he found himself in going into the fall. “Graphic design is about improvisation. It’s about a response to a problem. It’s about finding a solution through the constraints that you’re provided. And that’s what I’m doing.”

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