Tufts-SMFA merger details to be settled by July

Courtesy The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Following the signing of a merger agreement between Tufts and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA) in March, details on the union between the institutions will be settled and implemented by the end of July to provide students from both schools a more diverse set of course offerings. Administrators are currently working to ease the transition process by improving internet access within the SMFA, increasing transportation opportunities and coordinating registration and course requirements between the institutions. 

While newly-appointed dean of the SMFA Nancy Bauer is set to take on her new position on July 1, she has already been working on the transition. She explained that Sarah McKinnon, current senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of the SMFA, will step down from her role on July 1 before Bauer begins in her role as dean.

In her newly appointed position, Bauer aims to oversee and coordinate the integration process of the merger. Bauer said that Tufts and the SMFA have already established strong ties, noting the five-year double degree program between them and the working relationship which, according to a Jan. 20 Daily articlestems back to 1944. Both Bauer and McKinnon described the acquisition as a positive, natural next step in the SMFA’s longstanding relationship with Tufts.

McKinnon sees the acquisition as an opportunity to merge currently separated aspects of both universities.

“[There is] an interest in developing a bit of more, ‘going in both directions,'” she said. “At the moment, both students take studio classes here [and] academic classes [at Tufts]”

McKinnon explained there are plans to integrate the two institutions’ curricula by combining the two Student Information Systems and using a common registration system for prospective student applications. She noted that these changes are currently in the implementation process. Bauer also noted that she is working to translate the pass/fail grade structure of the classes at the SMFA over to become compatible with Tufts’ grading standards.

Bauer said that other changes include efforts to increase academic resources at the SMFA.

“As a museum the MFA runs itself brilliantly, but doesn’t necessarily have the resources to run a school,” she said. “[For example,] the needs of a school in respect to the internet are different than the needs of a museum. [There are teams working] to make the internet up to speed.”

She also explained that she is also working to accommodate and address the concerns raised by current students at the SMFA.

A view of the kiln room in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts' ceramics studio on April 30, 2016. (Max Lalanne/The Tufts Daily) (Max Lalanne/The Tufts Daily)

A view of the kiln room in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ ceramics studio on April 30. (Max Lalanne/The Tufts Daily)

“The artists at the SMFA are extremely intellectually engaged,” she said. “We’re going to provide a vehicle to make the sharing of ideas [easier].”

Bauer explained that this change will especially help the five-year dual degree students who are currently students of both Tufts and the SMFA.

“They epitomize what this [effort] represents,” Bauer said. “They are committed to intellectual and artistic pursuits. Their whole [lives are] going to be much, much easier.”

Transportation opportunities have been a long-standing issue for students commuting between the institutions, Bauer said. Fifth-year Tufts and SMFA Combined Degree student Maureen Hilton explained in an Oct. 2015 article in the Daily that while the shuttle makes rounds several times a day during the week, there are no transportation services provided for students on the weekends, despite some students needing to access the facility for weekend classes and in order to complete homework assignments.

To address this, Bauer explained, Tufts is working on providing security for the SMFA and increased transportation access to nearby locations within Boston, similar to the shuttle from the Medford/Somerville campus that goes to Davis Square. She noted that this initiative includes plans to double the number of shuttle buses between the institutions.

The acquisition will also directly affect Tufts students who are not currently affiliated with the SMFABauer described the plan to expand studio art classes on the Tufts University Medford-Somerville Campus.

“Right now all studio art classes are taught by people working for the SMFA.” Bauer said. “[By having Tufts employ art professors] the classes will be much better integrated into the curriculum.”

Despite all of the changes and active integration, Bauer emphasized that the new arrangement will not diminish the quality of the courses at SMFA.

“The MFA is still the landlord of the main building. Tufts [simply] does renovations there,” Bauer said. “There really are a lot of really great things about how the school is run and those are staying there. [We want to] make sure there is a much tighter relationship between [Tufts] teachers and [SMFA] students than there ever was before.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Nancy Bauer will start in her role as dean of the SMFA on June 1, but she will actually start in this role on July 1. The article has been updated accordingly.