If you could look at the Ringling College of Art and Design campus from an aerial view, you would see classrooms filled with students at various stages of their academic journeys. Zoom in, and you will notice the diversity of the student body—with differing nationalities, gender identities, and cultures. You might find these students bent over their work, deep in concentration. You may see them with a sketchpad in hand, looking for a few moments of quiet reflection. Perhaps you hear the chatter of their conversations and feel the energy of ideas being born.
Beyond its rigorous curriculum, Ringling College is committed to developing the whole student. To help fulfill that commitment, the College offers various services, resources, and programming to support these aspiring young artists and to help make their campus and social experiences every bit as rewarding as their classroom ones.
For example, the new Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), launched in Fall 2019, “strives not only to support the needs of Ringling College’s diverse population in a respectful, inclusive way, but also to create awareness of their cultures, nationalities, and identities through events, dialogues, and initiatives,” explained Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez (ze/zir/zirs), associate dean of students and director of the CDI.
Rosario-Hernandez brings zir experience as Director of the LGBTQ+ and Intercultural Resource Center at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ to this new role. While Rosario-Hernandez sees the CDI as an avenue for using art to achieve social justice, ze knows the importance of inclusivity beyond Ringling College as well. “One of my future goals,” according to Rosario-Hernandez, “is to take students both crosscountry and abroad to help them understand different cultures and to see how art works for social justice on a global platform.”
Fostering an environment in which people are valued on a human level and for their unique identities is important to Rosario-Hernandez. To that end, Rosario-Hernandez poses the question: “How do we create a space where everyone feels like they can belong, be celebrated, and be seen for who they are in an authentic and respectful way?”
Student Access Services (SAS) is designed to help meet the educational needs of Ringling College students with disabilities. Student Access Coordinator Clair Willrich notes that SAS “offers students with documented disabilities equal access in their pursuit of a higher education degree.” Since each student is unique, SAS provides individualized accommodations based on a comprehensive assessment of the disability’s impact on daily and academic functioning. Each student is viewed as an individual, with solutions tailored uniquely to their needs.
Also helping students is Public Safety. Dealing with a variety of issues centered around campus safety, Public Safety is available to students, faculty, and staff 24/7. From Campus Security Escorts to providing general safety tips, Public Safety strives to be approachable to the entire Ringling College community.
While studying at Ringling College provides an incredible educational opportunity, it can be like any other college experience — stressful. The Student Health Center provides care for the daily stresses that affect both body and mind. When they walk inside, students can find treatment for most common illnesses and can seek both individual and group counseling services at the Peterson Counseling Center.
The Student Learning Center (SLC) assists students with everything from time management to writing skills. The SLC’s goal is to help students enhance their skills and manage their workloads so that they can fulfill their academic responsibilities and have time for the full college experience, including spending time with friends and engaging in the many co-curricular activities that Ringling College provides.
Academic advisors are available to guide students as they choose courses and sketch out their futures. Once their chosen directions become clear, in comes Career Services to support students in achieving their career goals during their time at Ringling College and for the rest of their lives.
Of course, being a successful student is about more than getting good grades. Ringling College students have opportunities to engage both on campus and in the surrounding community. Student Leadership Development, its Campus Activities Board, and Community Engaged Learning offer opportunities for volunteerism, projects, and events that help students gain leadership skills, learn the value of service, contribute to the campus and broader community, and simply unwind.
Each student needs a different form of support and for different amounts of time. At Ringling College, there are always options for help and engagement. Students are never alone. They have access to a variety of services and resources to help them deal with whatever issue might arise as they work toward becoming the artist they were meant to be.
By Markella Paradissis-Wagner