Fine Arts, Fine Future

The University of Mobile’s art department is growing and making an impact, with the addition of two new Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in a program that has more than tripled the number of art majors from a decade ago.

In addition to the Bachelor of Arts in art, UM now offers the Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design and Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art.

Phillip Counselman ’01, associate professor of studio art and chair of the art department in the Alabama School of the Arts, said the BFA is a valuable degree.

“Many of our graphic design students get jobs even before they graduate. Our graphic design majors take positions as entry level designers and creative directors. Our studio majors are prepared for further studies in graduate programs,” he said.

Counselman credited Megan Cary, associate professor of graphic design, with designing the new Bachelor of Fine Arts programs and introducing new technology and equipment to the graphic design program.

“The BFA degree is the academic and professional standard for artists and designers,” Cary said. “It offers more extensive coursework in the academic area of interest. For both studio artists and graphic designers, that means they spend more time in the studio creating work, gaining practical experience through internships and building a portfolio of work to prepare them for a professional career in their field, or going on to graduate school.

“Most of our majors are employed in their field within three months of graduation due to their professionalism and experience,” Cary said. “In fact, several of our students accepted jobs in their field before they finished their finals this past May.”

Jacob Burkhardt is looking forward to finishing his senior year at UM and graduating with a BFA in graphic design.

“I’ve always loved art and computers, so when I learned about graphic design in high school, I thought that it would be a perfect fit for me and

that I would enjoy learning the processes behind it,” Burkhardt said. “When I first started at UM, I didn’t quite know the job path that I wanted to go down, but I knew it would be design.”

Cary showed Burkhardt all the career paths available to graphic designers, and now he is hoping to land a job as a concept artist, and eventually freelance. Burkhardt finds fulfilment in the warm and caring environment of UM.

“A favorite aspect of my studies is the community within the visual arts department,” Burkhardt said. “It’s really great having other artists around you bouncing ideas off of each other and getting to see the diversity in art styles of your fellow classmates. There is also a variety of art classes that really gets you to try a lot of different mediums of art such as design, drawing, ceramics, sculpting and more.

“The professors are great and really care about their students,” Burkhardt continued. “They inspire their students to get involved in the community by creating opportunities for them to create and put artwork in public areas around Mobile. They’ve gotten students to help create art that has gone in local museums, and create murals such as the one in the Mobile Convention Center. The professors are constantly looking for ways to get their students involved in the community in a fun and creative way.”

Counselman added, “Our students are full of creative energy. We strive to help them develop so they are able to think critically and solve visual problems. We teach students their artistic voice is important and encourage them to engage.”

For more information about bachelor’s degrees in art, studio art and graphic design, visit or call Enrollment Services at 251.442.2222.

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Martha Simmons