Fall 2020 at CCA: Adapting coursework, lectures, and collegewide events for a remote semester

We’re dedicated to bringing the campus experience to our students, no matter where you’re learning from. So we’re getting creative.

In mid July, following guidance from the San Francisco Department of Public Health and a recent surge of COVID–19 cases across California, CCA announced that it would move forward with a remote fall semester. Although the decision was difficult, protecting the health and safety of our community—one of the college’s core guiding principles throughout this public health crisis—is CCA’s top priority.

We wish we could welcome our students, faculty, and staff to campus in September, and this isn’t the semester we’d hoped for, but there’s still a lot to look forward to. Faculty and staff have been preparing for the possibility of an online semester since March and have designed a robust, high-quality, and supportive academic experience for this unusual time. We’re dedicated to bringing the campus experience to our students—no matter where you’re learning from—through thoughtfully planned remote courses, virtual community events and civic engagement opportunities, and meaningful artistic experiences.

Taking the classroom online

And adapting alongside the professional world

CCA’s small size, high teacher-to-student ratio, supportive community, and radical creativity have always been some of the best things about the college. So it makes sense that those features are all key elements in our approach to teaching and learning remotely.

Students will continue to have ample opportunity to develop close connections with faculty and their peers this semester—individual programs prioritize one-on-one connection with faculty, and first-year students are paired with faculty mentors for regular check-ins throughout the semester.

With a combination of synchronous and asynchronous course delivery online, there’s the added bonus that it’s nearly impossible to miss class (here’s to perfect attendance!), since it’s always there and ready for you. Students in different time zones won’t have to log on at inconvenient hours, and, as First Year Experience Chair Erik Scollon points out, you can pause or rewind your professors until you understand exactly what they mean during each lesson.

Faculty have also found creative ways to use technology to enhance online coursework. The Architecture division has harnessed tools like Mural, a digital whiteboard, for distanced, class-wide collaboration, and professors in the Fashion Design program found that using head-cams to pre-record class content took their demonstrations to a new level. Fashion Design Chair Lynda Grose says, “Students really liked the video recordings, since they can view them more closely than in a normal, in-person class, and they can refer back to them as many times as they need to follow and understand instructions.”

Grose also notes that the professional world is experiencing significant, lasting change during this time, so students are learning new skill sets and adapting in real time. “The fashion world has shifted radically, and the most in-demand jobs are those that involve knowledge and experience in online communication and storytelling,” Grose says. “How students present themselves and their work online—through a Zoom interview or in a video or digital portfolio—are critical professional skills we’ll be building through remote classes.”

Learn from “visiting” lecturers near and far

Because location is no longer a factor, many programs are taking advantage of the remote format to book captivating guest speakers and industry rockstars from around the globe. Many lectures this fall will also offer a new perspective on the crucial role that art and design play in a more equitable and anti-racist post-pandemic world.

This fall’s Design Lecture Series features a diverse lineup of special guest speakers, including August de los Reyes talking about the power of inclusive design; Dominique Drakeford presenting on “Fashion, Race, and Sustainability”; and Silas Munro speaking on “A Designer’s Struggle for Integrity.”

And the 2020–2021 Architecture Lecture Series—based around the topic of “Remaking”—focuses on relevant, timely actions and opportunities for architecture, interior design, and urbanism. Upcoming events include a September book launch for CCA professor Irene Cheng’s new publication, co-edited with Mabel O. Wilson and Charles L. Davis, Race and Modern Architecture, co-presented with Columbia University and SUNY Buffalo. There’s also a teach-in event and lecture in October on borders and migration featuring a keynote lecture with migration scholar Sarah Lopez and architectural researcher Ronald Rael (postponed from spring 2020); and in November, a discussion about “Urbanism Beyond Corona,” co-presented with the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

“The remote semester allowed us to rethink our lecture series this year, broadening our opportunities for creative partnerships with cultural and academic institutions as close as the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and as far as SUNY Buffalo, the University of Toronto, and Columbia University,” says Architecture Dean Keith Krumwiede. “We’d rather convene in person, but while we can’t, we’re finding ways to access a worldwide creative community to explore how we’re working to radically remake architecture and design education right now.”

Attend CCA events and flex your creative activism

The Office of Student Life is translating many of CCA’s classic events—like the faculty-led “If I could teach you anything” conversations, Crunch Week events, and Taboo Talks—to give students opportunities to meet up with classmates outside the classroom and in the digital sphere.

The fall semester will also offer opportunities to engage more deeply with creative activism through Creative Citizens in Action ([email protected]). Tied to CCA’s mission to prepare students for lifelong creative work by cultivating innovation, community engagement, and social and environmental responsibility, [email protected] will feature virtual talks and town halls; an open call for artwork from the CCA community related to creative activism, civic engagement or democratic participation; voting resources; and a DIY curriculum toolkit for faculty and student groups.

“It’s important for students to know that CCA is still CCA, even at a distance,” says Noki Seekao, director of Student Life. “We’re all figuring out a new normal together, and there’s no better way to reimagine what’s possible than with a community of creatives and makers like we have at CCA.”

This fall will undoubtedly look and feel different for us all, but a CCA education has always been about creative problem-solving, perseverance, and making art from the resources available. And across CCA this semester, we’re focusing on the ways our community can still join together—in virtual classrooms, studios, and common spaces—to collaborate, take care of each other, think critically, and create.