College of the Arts’ Students Take Classes on the Road

Students across all disciplines learn the world is their classroom

Students in the Fashion Design program are pictured during their 2012 study-abroad trip to Paris, France, and Antwerp, Belgium.

One of the many unique opportunities afforded to students at the College of the Arts is the chance to broaden their horizons by traveling to other parts of the world as part of their coursework.

This semester, students in all of the College's academic units globetrotted to destinations spanning two continents.


Department of Art and Design

Students majoring in Fashion Studies went to London, with a one-day excursion to Bath, during the Spring Break trip that is also a three-credit class. Prof. Abby Lillethun said the study-abroad trip for Fashion Studies students has been offered for the last four years, during which the destinations have included Paris, London, Rome, Florence, Milan, and Antwerp, Belgium. She added the theme of the trip changes from year to year and is tailored to the destination, which has traditionally been in Europe as the continent affords an unique historic perspective.  

"One theme in Europe that cannot be examined in North America is the various layers of past historical ages," Lillethun explained. "And, specific to the fashion student, is the opportunity to study the ways that people traded and developed retail systems, such as in the Roman era in Bath and London, in medieval Paris, or in the arcades of London, Paris and Milan. The students also study the fashion and textile industries of the regions we visit and how they have changed in the recent past from producers of products to purveyors."

Lillethun said seminars are held in preparation before travel to study the locales and scholarly readings related to the fashion systems. After the trip, there are meetings to discuss and analyze the entire experience, and students write final term papers based on the readings they have studied and their own experiences on site.

The Fashion Studies students weren't the only contingent from the College of the Arts in London during Spring Break. Graphic Design Program Director Prof. John Luttropp, assisted by Asst. Prof. Anthony Inciong, and twelve students were on the fifth annual Graphic Design in London Study Abroad tour, sponsored by the Office of Global Education.

Luttropp said 11 graphic design majors and one fine arts/studio major with a specialization in photography, spent 10 days visiting three design studios, and museums. The three "very active" design studios, Luttropp said, were Hat-Trick, Johnson Banks, and A2/SW/HK, who specialize in type design as well as graphic design. The students were able to meet with designers from the three firms and see the similarities and differences between U.S.- and U.K.-design trends and processes.

They also visited Portobello Road, famous for its Saturday open antique fair, and Camden Market, where trendy fashion, art, music and food is on display each weekend.

Luttropp said, overall, the trip was a great learning experience and memorable.

"While the weather may have been chilly, typical for this time of year, after seeing the famous landmarks of London, and visiting Harrods and Covent Garden for shopping, as well as museums specializing in everything from ancient art artifacts to modern design on the tour, the students came home tired but their spirits were high, and they returned with an extensive knowledge of culture, art, and design."

The Department also faculty-led, study-abroad trips to Kingston-on-Thames (UK); Madrid (Spain); and Florence and Genzano (Italy), among others.


John J. Cali School of Music

Twenty-four students in Montclair State University's Vocal Accord, led by Dr. Heather Buchanan, traveled to Europe last June on a performance tour culminating in Montclair’s sister city of Graz, Austria, at the University of the Performing Arts (KUG).

Senior Christina McCall, who's majoring in Music Education studying voice, was part of the tour, which was her first trip as a student at Montclair State. McCall said the experience was invaluable.

"The performance aspect was, by far, the most rewarding because of the interest and gratitude all audiences showed us while we were on tour," McCall said.

However, she added it was the unexpected developments during the trip that were the most memorable.

"Rehearsing and performing were obviously the focus of our trip but we were so incredibly fortunate to do so many other things," McCall said. "We took a few walking tours around Vienna, Graz, and Venice, which were all incredibly informative and surprisingly fun, but the nice thing was that we had so much free time to really explore what was most important to us.

"We were fortunate enough to befriend a lot of the students over in Graz, particularly, and they showed us so much more than just a tour of their home. They showed us their favorite spots and we got to share an unforgettable experience getting to know them and really befriend people from a whole different culture."

Accompanying the group were two School of Communication and Media (SCM) students, Robert Dickerson and Kenneth Spooner, who documented the experience. Read more about the documentary, and watch the trailer, here. (More information appears below under the School of Communication and Media section.)

Buchanan, who's director of Choral Activities, said this was the first trip abroad for the Vocal Accord, which debuted in January 2010.  Ironically, the idea for both the Vocal Accord, and this tour, took shape in 2010, when Buchanan was completing a one-week residency at the KUG, in Graz, Austria, with which Montclair State operates an exchange program. When officials at KUG offered to pay for accommodations for one week in Graz, Buchanan said it was decided to bring a chamber choir consisting of 24 members because "this was within our budget." Thus, the Vocal Accord was born.

Buchanan said the Vocal Accord is a 24-voice chamber choir, auditioned from the 60-member Montclair State University Singers. She noted that the Vocal Accord is a venture students take part in for the pleasure, not for credit.

"It is an extra-curricular choir, which means the students receive no academic credit for their participation and all rehearsals are held on our own time, independent of the weekly teaching schedule, and the students meet on their own time to develop their repertoire," explained Buchanan.


School of Communication and Media (SCM)

Between January 10-22, a group of students from Montclair State University traveled to the Middle East with faculty as a film crew, documenting the Hayatuna Amman project, which provides arts education and cultural workshops to disenfranchised children in Amman, Jordan. Jack Smith IV, an SCM student who's part of the group, wrote a series of blogs, which includes photos taken during their trip, for The Montclarion(Read the blogs here.)


Meanwhile, Prof. David Sanders led a group of broadcasting students to study abroad in Florence, Italy, for about six weeks last summer. Sanders said the trip is a three-credit course with students taking two classes in either language or culture/history. Students are given assignments before they leave for the trip. During the trip, they study the differences in broadcasting history and philosopy in that country compared to the U.S. in terms of development.

Students also must produce a half-hour TV program based on the trip. Sanders said each student proposes a topic related to cultural interests or other issues in which he or she is interested. The group, as a whole, then picks the best three or four from the pool. Students then shoot needed footage, including interviews, and put together the piece while there, up until the point of editing. Once the group returns, one student, or two, will edit the final piece as part of their independent study project. While the final, edited pieces are intended to be class exercises, they are also shown on webcasts, or on Carpe Diem, the student-produced, award-winning, weekly half-hour magazine show aired in northern New Jersey, as well as on Inside MSU, a weekly cable news show, produced by students in the Journalism class.

Junior Stephanie Giang said it was her first study-abroad trip and "one of the best experiences" she ever had. Although she took two classes four days a week, Giang said there were ample opportunities to explore the area, courtesy of the excursions that were offered within the program. Giang took time to explore the city before and after classes, and, on the weekends, she ventured outside Florence to discover other areas of Italy.  As a broadcasting student, Giang said she was familiar with field production beforehand and got to film and interview people at Florence's own gelato festival.

Giang urged other students take advantage of a study-abroad trip.

"I definitely experienced a different culture," she said. "The food and lifestyle were different from the U.S. and it was exciting to live every day in a different part of the world and experience the variety and culture Italy had to offer.

"The most memorable recollection of the trip, besides experiencing the food and culture, is definitely the friends I made on the trip," she added. "I became very good friends with my roommates and made new friends there who actually reside in Italy. We have all met up again in New York and Miami and still keep in close contact. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had and I would definitely recommend a study-abroad trip to other students. It is one thing every student should save up for and experience before they graduate."

Sanders said the summer study-abroad broadcasting trip has been offered every year since 1997, and destinations have included Nice (France); Madrid (Spain); and Tuscany and Sicily (Italy). Students choose the destination each year.


SCM students Robert Dickerson and Kenneth Spooner filmed the European tour of 24 students in Montclair State University's Vocal Accord, which traveled last June on a performance tour culminating in Montclair’s sister city of Graz, Austria. The two documented the experience and their documentary, American Voices: Montclair State University Vocal Accord's European Tour 2012, traces the musical, cultural, and personal journey of the students as they sang their way through Europe's musical heartland. The film premiered February 26 at Leshowitz Hall at the John J. Cali School of Music.

Read more about the documentary, and watch the trailer, here.

Department of Theatre and Dance

Acting and directing Prof. Sue Kerner led a group of 13 undergraduate students, and one graduate student, from the Department on a seven-day trip, also as part of a three-credit course, to London. Prior to the trip, the class met three times and read some of the plays they were to see performed on the trip, and then met again after the trip.

During the trip, Kerner said the students met for classes every day, and attended three workshops: a clowning workshop at the famed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA); a directing workshop at the National Theatre, in conjunction with a play that the group saw there; and one at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, in which they saw Macbeth, with James McAvoy.

Students also had a session with a theatre critic, a friend of Kerner, who gave a roundup of the current season's highlights, as well as a Q&A with two professional actors.

Kerner added there wasn't time to do much else as the group was so immersed in theatre. Graduate theatre student Christina Cruz concurred, adding that the trip changed her views greatly.

"I was exposed to so much theatre," Cruz said. "It was great. It changed my perspective on how theatre can be executed and experienced."

 Cruz said it was not only the London theatre scene that affected her.

"I loved the culture and the people," she added. "The city was beautiful and clean. It was crazy being in a country that has so much history. I'm definitely going back."
Kerner said the study-abroad trip to London has been offered since 1998. Plans are being considered to add Berlin, Germany, as a destination.