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College of Continuing Education News

ACL and MLS welcome new directors

Meet the two new grad program directors in this Q&A

This winter, the College welcomed John Logie, the new director of graduate studies for the Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) degree and Tom Borrup, the new faculty director for the Arts and Cultural Leadership (ACL) program.

Q&A with John LogieLogie-crop (1).jpg
An associate professor of rhetoric in the Department of Writing Studies (College of Liberal Arts), John Logie has taught numerous MLS courses throughout the years, and most recently served as program co-director.

A little bit about you...why the interest in rhetoric? Why is it relevant in the modern world? What's the appeal?
What appeals to me about rhetoric? It's law, politics, and marketing all rolled into one! It's about seriously examining whether and how you and I can change one another's minds--or anyone else's. It's about words doing work in the world.

And the bonus prize for me is that I get to do this work in the midst of one of the most profound shifts in communication practice in human history, the advent of networked digital communication.

I'm a rhetorician at heart, and a big 'ol Internet nerd in practice. So I'm interested in persuasion and influence generally, and I'm especially interested in how and whether we adapt the 2.5 millennium old practices of Western rhetorics to the Internet. I like that rhetoric's theoretical toolkits are flexible and adaptable enough that they can function in concert with a lot of other disciplinary practices. Rhetoric "plays nicely with others" if you will...

That "playing nicely with others" sounds very interdisciplinary--do you think that serves you well in regards to the MLS program?
It helps that rhetoric as a discipline has a history of 'promiscuity.' Rhetoric spends much of its time pursuing questions in interdisciplinary contexts, and interdisciplinarity has been a foundational element of the Master of Liberal Studies program.

The heart of the MLS program is the opportunity to craft a highly specific and personally focused interdisciplinary degree. While the program is anchored in the traditional academic liberal arts, students often blend courses from across colleges to help them take a next step in their professional or scholarly careers.

So, people interested in a graduate degree for academic/research pursuits, as well as those looking for one for applied/professional purposes can find a home here?
Well, if you want to be a veterinarian, or a C++ programmer, we're not the right choice. But if you are on a professional or personal arc where interdisciplinary study can offer you new or refined lenses, then we're the place!

Because the program offers students considerable self-determination in crafting an interdisciplinary program that meets their needs, it's more a question of what any one particular MLS degree says about any one particular student.

If we were "selling" it to an employer...?

My job would be to explain that the MLS provides a structure for rigorous graduate interdisciplinary study at a world-class university. The student's task would be to explain how their specific MLS program developed or reinforced a skill set that is calibrated to the demands of a specific 21st-century workplace.

What if you are "selling" the degree to potential students? Who is your market? Career changers? Advancers? Intellectually curious? Soulless robots? Pirates and robber barons? Some combination of those? All of the above?
We would welcome all of the above, with the possible exception of robber barons. They would likely find the ethical commitments that our students bring to their studies confusing. Pirates are also risky, but the sea chanties are so charming that we might make an exception. The soulless robot can find a little more soul here in the MLS program.

Truthfully, the annual end-of-program presentations often contain a barely restrained exuberance because the students have traveled--in many cases--farther than they ever thought they would. Career changers and the intellectually curious are the most common, but one of the strengths of the program is that each class is diverse enough that you will definitely meet a fellow student who -- even if not a pirate -- approaches your project from a very different perspective.

Aside from fending off robber barons, what are some of your goals for the MLS program?

MLS was designed to give its students considerable flexibility, both in terms of subject matter and because it offers classes outside of what was once the "normal" 9-to-5 workday. The MLS offers a chance for working or otherwise committed adults to pursue the ideas that matter to them as part of a community of similarly committed students.

One of my big goals is to extend that spirit of flexibility to the program structure itself. Earlier, I said that I felt lucky to be working in an era of networked digital communication. This is exciting, but it is also a challenge. The availability of digital tools is bringing significant changes to universities, and part of my challenge is to help the MLS adapt and respond to these shifts.

This degree was developed before Google, for example. Now Google Scholar is perhaps the core of many students' research processes. This provides the MLS with an affirmative opportunity to revisit and recalibrate its structures and strategies so that we can sure we are helping our 21st century Master of Liberal Studies students achieve their goals in ways that take advantage of the current technological opportunities.

Q&A with Tom Borrup
Tom Borrup is the founder of Creative Community Builders, a nationwide consulting organization specializing in community cultural planning for cities, nonprofits, and foundations. The former executive director for Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, he also has taught courses on arts and cultural management and creative placemaking for numerous institutions, including The Ohio State University, St. Mary's, Drexel University, and the University of Massachusetts, among others.Borrup-Headshot-City-Horiz-1MB.jpg

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background, and what got you into this area?
For 22 years, I led a community-based arts center in Minneapolis called Intermedia Arts. During my tenure there, I became interested in the idea of bringing artists and culture together with community activists and planners. Eventually, it led me to found Creative Community Builders, where I could concentrate on working directly with communities and other nonprofits in their efforts.

As a consulting firm, we conduct planning for cities, nonprofits, and foundations mostly in the area of community cultural planning. We do some assessments and evaluation projects, as well as training and organizational strategic planning, but mostly we work with clients to generate cultural plans, cultural district plans, or cultural economic development plans.

I love my work--it's varied and has taken me all over the U.S. and to other parts of the world. The distinctive qualities of communities and the people who lead them are fascinating to me. No two places are alike. Every place is special and the energy and enthusiasm people have for their communities is very motivating and rewarding.

So what, specifically, is involved in "creative community building"? What is "cultural asset mapping"?
[Smiling], Well, there's an industry-jargon-filled description for every field, right? But the short answer is: we help towns, cities, organizations, and neighborhoods use tools they already have to realize the visions they have for their communities.

There are, of course, many approaches to taking inventory of a community's cultural assets (and many ways to define those assets). Personally, I take a broad view of what cultural assets are, and I prefer it when people get engaged in the identification process. That way, it isn't some expert consultant telling people what their culture is and what their cultural assets are. It's collaborative and it's about discovering and learning together.

To give you a current example, I'm working with a small city in northern Michigan where winter outdoor activities, as well as summer hiking, biking, and lake recreation are a huge part of the culture and the economy. Yes, they also have terrific theater, museums, music, galleries, dance, etc. [what one might traditionally label as "culture"], but food and the beautiful natural environment are also part of everyone's lives. Now, they are beginning to take stock in all their cultural assets, which include strong civic participation, respect for others, neighborliness, entrepreneurism, and other attributes.

Again, I think expansively about culture, and it's our goal to use that to ask how can all of the players and organizations, as well as the activities themselves and the natural environment, help people generate a livelihood? How can they contribute to getting people working together to improve their community and the lives of everyone there? These are questions we engage communities in and they invariably find ways they can improve the quality of life by strategically investing time, money, and public policy in new ways that stimulate and accentuate the cultural riches their communities have.

Speaking of cultural assets, what drew you to the Arts and Cultural Leadership program here at CCE?

In general, teaching and working with graduate students is of greater interest for me--working with people who have a focus and are motivated to learn. [It's] very rewarding and stimulating. And the U of M itself is attractive--it's a world-class research institution and because of that, the depth and breadth of amazing people who teach, work, and study there bring an endless trove of knowledge to students in the program.

And, of course, the details of the program itself. People might ask, "how is this program different from say, a master's degree in nonprofit management, or similar?" But ACL is about more than effectively managing nonprofits. It's about how people in the arts and culture sector provide leadership in their communities and in the world.

It explores cultural dimensions of leadership--as in the multiple ways that different people see and understand the world, how they create and communicate using many expressive forms, and how they impact the world and the ways that others see and understand it. Leadership in an arts and cultural context brings a profoundly different appreciation of how leadership is practiced, what it can accomplish and in the tools available to make a difference.

The curriculum provides a required core, but there's plenty of space for students to pursue a related area or areas in-depth. From arts practice, arts education and museum studies, to urban design, public policy and cultural geography...the relevant topics that ACL students can bring into their studies, based on their interests, is wildly amazing.

So, who is this program for? Why is it a good fit?
For one, it's a great fit for this area! It's unique in this region and it builds on some of the great strengths of the cultural community here--strengths that make the Twin Cities' cultural, nonprofit, and philanthropic communities the envy of the nation.

Speaking on the level of the individual...I wouldn't say to someone "you fit this program," so much as I might tell them "this program fits you," if that makes sense. This degree is built around the student and his or her goals--goals which might include (for example) actualizing individual potential, building bridges and bonds between people, creating things of beauty and wonder, forming collaborative communities, deepening our understanding or making sense of ourselves and the world around us... or so many others ways that artistic expression and cultural connection make the world meaningful and better.

Ideally, an ACL graduate will walk away from this program possessing strong skills in managing enterprises and people, as well as skill sets that enable them to take an organization and its mission to a new level of significance.

How do you envision your role as faculty director? What are some goals you have for the program as a whole?
I think this role has both an inside and an outside component. "Inside" is working with program staff and faculty to help make ACL as welcoming, relevant, and exciting for students as possible and to help draw in the best people--as students and also as faculty, guest speakers, advisers, others. On the "outside," it's my goal to represent the program to the cultural community in the region and nationally and help build its reputation.

There's always more to learn about and people to meet. Bringing in new perspectives and voices...you know, the ideas, energy, and new and different ways of seeing and doing things that people bring are critical to maintaining a creative place like the Twin Cities area--and they are for the ACL program, as well.

I'd like to see ACL recognized internationally for the caliber of students and faculty associated with it and for the kind of community in which it exists. Of course those are synergistic in that the program will be contributing to the remarkable community while the community is, in turn, making such a strong program possible.

Follow the links for more information about the Master of Liberal Studies program or the Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural Leadership program!

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