So You Want to Apply to AOEU . . .(Ep. 156)

With last month’s announcement that The Art of Education has become AOEU, there has been a lot of interest in the University and the Master’s Degree. AOEU Head of Admissions Shannon Lauffer is here to discuss that interest with Tim, and in this episode they talk about who is applying for the degree, the highs and lows of starting an admissions department, and give a quick rundown of the application process.  Full episode transcript below.

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Tim: Welcomed Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University and I’m your host Tim Bogatz. Last month, we had a couple episodes right after the 1st of the year about the fact that The Art of Education University now has university at the end of its name. We talked to Jessica about how we got to this point, the transition from The Art of Education to AOEU and all of the work that has gone into it. We also talked to Derek, our CEO, about the whole idea of the university for life. That’s something that has stuck with me. I love the model of university for life, especially with the things that I work on, being able to bring this podcast to you every week and being able to do a conference a couple of times a year and write articles for our online magazine.

Because not everybody needs a master’s degree and not everybody needs to be taking graduate courses. Sometimes you just need some entertainment during your plan time and hopefully this podcast can bring that to you sometimes. Sometimes you just need a lesson plan or you want to an entertaining read after school, something like that. We have that for you too. The whole idea that learning is not just compartmentalized into these graduate courses, there are conferences that you can do, there’s art ed pro that you can do. There is, like I said, podcasts and lesson plans and resources and articles that are all available because not everybody’s at that same point. So we want to continue to bring you whatever you need, whenever you need it and hopefully, hopefully we can accomplish that.

But all of that being said, a huge part of the university is obviously the master’s degree and there’s been a ton of interest in that and a lot of people have questions. So we decided we’re going to put together an episode for that. So here to answer a bunch of those questions, give you some insight in case a master’s degree might be of interest to you. Shannon Lauffer is here. Shannon’s been on the podcast a lot before. Most recently, I remember we did interest inventories and also working with paraprofessionals, a couple of awesome conversations. Shannon, it’s always a lot of fun to talk to you. So let me bring her on now. we can chat about how things are going with everybody who wants to be a part of the AOEU master’s degree. All right, Shannon Lauffer is joining me now. Shannon, how are you today?

Shannon: I’m so good.

Tim: That’s awesome. I’m super excited to hear that. I’m super excited to talk to you because I feel like we always have good conversations, but we need to talk about AOEU and admissions and all the exciting stuff that goes along with that.

Shannon: Absolutely.

Tim: Because you’ve been running things. You’ve been working on the admissions side of AOEU for past few months now, I guess. So let’s put it like this, on a scale of one to 10, how overwhelmed have you been with just how popular the degree is and the number of people that have been applying?

Shannon: Probably going to come in at about 100 even. No, it’s so exciting. There’s just tons of interests. People are so excited about this degree program and for us to finally be able to share this degree with people who are just as excited as we are, it’s been a real labor of love. At this point, we have 53 students accepted and enrolled in our program and counting. So I mean, I just can’t wait to see what this looks like a year from now or five years from now. It’s just, have I said it’s exciting yet, because it’s exciting?

Tim: Yeah, it is. It’s really exciting. I’m impressed because-

Tim: But I mean, as we’re recording this, it’s been like not even a month, just a matter of weeks since we’ve announced the degree and 50 people are already enrolled, which I think is incredible. Just trying to think about it, like you said, a year from now or even five years from now. I hate to use the word exciting again, but there’s just so much potential there and there’s so much room for growth.

Shannon: There is.

Tim: I think it is really cool to kind of think about what it could be. But I always like to have people kind of tell behind the scenes stories and so I was hoping you could maybe kind of take us through the journey of what you’ve been working on as we’re trying to put all of this together. We’ve heard all about how you go about starting university. Jessica has come on and told us all about that. But how do you just start an admissions department out of nowhere?

Shannon: Well, that has been the million dollar question this year.

Tim: Yes.

Shannon: So I mean, really when it comes down to it, I had a lot of moments of like, “I am an art teacher. I don’t know how to do this.” But what I found is that admissions is so much about just putting yourself back into the shoes of a student. for me, this has been really fun because I actually started my postgraduate work with AOE as well. So I was looking to fulfill some electives in a master’s program and found AOE, took a course, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. This can go directly into my classroom. It’s super relevant.” So it’s allowed me to step back into the shoes of a student and kind of relate that to my own time as I was seeking a master’s degree.

Then working with people in admissions, it’s really just determining how to get people the information they need, and the best way to make that both attainable and also digestible because as you’re looking at degree programs, there is so much information. There’s a lot of options out there. So really just determining what’s the information that people need right now that’s going to help them be a great art teacher today.

Tim: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. I actually want to kind of ask about that a little bit more because I’ve talked about this one on the podcast before, but for me when I was looking at degrees, and I’m old so it’s been awhile.

Shannon: No.

Tim: But there was not a lot online when I was looking and things that were there were really expensive and just didn’t seem attainable, I guess. So as you’re talking about all of these things with students, what they’re looking for, the options that are out there for them, I’m kind of in that position of being a little bit jealous. Like, “Oh I wish this had been here for me.”

Shannon: Exactly.

Tim: Because it was checking off all of the boxes that I wanted when it came to a master’s degree. So just from your experience in talking to people all over, what part of the program or what part of the degree do you think has resonated most with people? What are people excited about when it comes to this degree?

Shannon: So I mean, just hearing you say like, “I wish this was around when I was getting my master’s,” I mean I had the same feeling of, “This was all I wanted was just a degree in art education that I could do online,” because I was commuting to work so I couldn’t then commute to graduate school after that. There just wasn’t enough time in my day. So what I think that probably the best part about this degree that I’m really trying to scream from the rooftops is the flexibility. So what I love most about this is for people who are familiar with our courses, you know that almost every month we run almost all of our courses. So every month there’s a different set of courses that are starting. So let’s say you have your student art show for youth art month in March. So your feeling is like, “I cannot take a course in March as I set up this art show for my students. I’m going to go crazy.” It’s great because you can just not schedule a course for March.

Or if you need to take a little bit longer to work on your degree because you don’t want to take courses back to back, you can really spread it out. You have five years to finish it. So what I love about this is that it takes into account that people are working full time, most of them, and still want to earn this master’s degree. But they also have a family. They also have a life. They also have friends. So it allows you to really check all these boxes to still work full time, to still raise your family, to still work summer school if you’re working summer school, to have your summers off if you want your summers off, and to take courses just when it makes sense for you.

Tim: Like you said, the flexibility is just key because we talk all the time about how we are so busy with everything that comes up and so being able to do this on your own timeline I think is huge. But I also wanted to talk about things on the flip side, like things that maybe aren’t going so well. So, again, from your perspective as head of admissions, is there something that people have been struggling with? Have there been any roadblocks that you’re seeing? What can people expect and how are you finding ways to kind of get around some of the problems that pop up?

Shannon: Yeah, for sure. So I would say the trickiest part of this is that we are working with art teachers in all 50 states and also our teachers around the world. So something that has been kind of a roadblock and also an opportunity for us to learn a lot is all of the state by state requirements. So if you’d ever been licensed to teach in one state and then move to another state, you know what this is like, your license doesn’t transfer. You have to take this exam. You have to get a new provisional license, you have to upgrade it. I was teaching in New Jersey for awhile and then I moved to Indiana and it was a whole, it was like starting from scratch. What we’re finding is that just the same way that there is no uniform state by state requirements for a license, it’s the same thing for earning a master’s degree.

So what we’ve been working with students to do is ensure that they’re getting super specific about their goals so that they’re going to their state, they’re going to their administration, they’re going to their HR department or their principal or whoever it is and saying, “These are my goals. I need a license renewal or I want salary advancement. Then helping them to get the exact information that they need. One of the tools that our compliance department has been working is a state map.

Tim: Yes.

Shannon: I wish you could click a link in a podcast, I want to hold my finger and click the air. Can you link it?

Tim: Yes, we will put it in the show notes. But I was just going to ask you if you could talk about the map because it’s like, I don’t want to say it’s the coolest thing we’ve ever done at AOE.

Shannon: Well, it’s the coolest thing we’ve ever done at AOE.

Tim: It’s up there. It’s pretty great.

Shannon: So the map is a state by state map. right now, what we have is the United States, so we don’t have any international research posted right now. But right now we’re showing the research that we’ve conducted, our most recent research for all 50 states. So this is, covers everything from what teachers can use for professional development points, which by the way have a different name in every single state.

Tim: Yes.

Shannon: Like who’s in charge of their salary advancement? Is it the state, is it their districts? If they need to renew their license or not, what they can use for that. It’s such a powerful resource that we’ve been directing a lot of people to in admissions as they look at the master’s degree, but really could work for any of our other offerings as well. There’s information in there about pro and the conference and just individual courses. So it’s exciting.

Tim: It is. No, it’s really cool. I think it’s great to have all that just at your fingertips because it’s a good starting point to go talk to your district, to go talk to your administrator and just kind of figure out exactly what’s needed for you. But I also wanted to ask you too about the application itself, like people who want to be part of the program. Obviously, you need to apply, but it’s not just this boring form where you’re filling out data and entering your GPA from random college courses and what your SAT score was however many years ago. It involves actual art teaching topics and writing about art and gives you the chance to just talk about your passion when it comes to what’s happening in your classroom. So, I know there are a lot of people kind of considering that. So can you give everybody a little more detail on what we’re asking for with the application and I guess more importantly the reasoning behind why we’re asking for those things?

Shannon: Yeah, totally. So the application is a fun process because it’s asking you to present yourself as both a professional, but also we want to see your personality. So it’s really easy to feel disconnected in online learning or an online college. So what we’re really trying to harness is humanizing that experience. So there’s four components here that I’ll go over. So the first is the micro portfolio. So the micro portfolio is just 10 images and you’ll compose a caption that goes with each image. The purpose of this is to just show us kind of like an inside peek as to what you do. These could be pictures of your classroom, of your students working, of your own artwork, of displays or art shows or community involvement that you’re doing. So any of those types of things that you might post on your art teacher Instagram or a professional Instagram. Those would all be great options for your micro portfolio.

Tim: Okay, so basically, sorry to interrupt you, it’s just like a narrative of your teaching, right?

Shannon: Exactly.

Tim: It could be personal stuff. It could be professional development you’re doing. It could be what your kids are making. Just kind of, I guess for lack of a better phrase, like showing who you are as an art teacher.

Shannon: Exactly. Yeah. That’s kind of what people are saying like, “I want to start thinking about the application.” I think that’s the best place to start. Just keep your phone in your back pocket. Don’t tell your administration you’re doing that, if they’re an anti-phone school. But just sort of like snapping pictures, because isn’t it interesting? Like every once a while, when you have a chance to just stand on the corner of your classroom and see everything happening. It’s like, “Whoa, look at this thing that I’ve built where my students come into my room and they know where to sit and they know where the materials are and they know what to do and they’re working on their projects,” and it’s just giving us that insight peak in your classroom or your art making or whatever it is that makes you an artist and a teacher.

So kind of along the same lines, the second big component is a video. This is another one that a lot of people were like, “Oh my gosh, a video. What do I do?” So the video is, oh my gosh, excuse me. You need to clear your throat before you record it. So at AOE, at AOEU, the video is kind of a staple for everything we do. Whenever we open up new positions, ask for applications, we always include a video component because again, this is all about humanizing the process. It’s one thing to submit a resume and to look good on paper, but it’s another thing to be able to talk about who you are, what you do and why you do what you do. So the video, you can record it right on your phone, right on your computer and it’s just one to three minutes, super quick. That will allow us to see you as a person.

Then the third one is the writing sample. So probably the scariest part, but it does not have to be. So one to two-page graduate level writing sample, and then there’s four different topics. So it can be an artist statement, it can be your philosophy of teaching, a personal history with art or a persuasive paper about why art education is so important. So to me as an art teacher, these are four topics that if you said you have 10 minutes to talk about your philosophy of teaching, I’d be like, “Ready, get set. Here we go.” This is stuff that we have such strong feelings about. So just having a chance to put that into words. Then the APA formatting for that, you can look up on Purdue Owl or Google APA formatting for a paper if you’re not sure how to do it. Just look at it as a learning experience, find a couple resources, throw a citation at the bottom. That’s the writing sample. Probably quicker than you would think.

Tim: Yeah, that’s cool.

Shannon: Then the last part is the resume. So your resume, collection of your work experience, your education. I love this because I know the one school that I was at for five years, I did not update my resume for five years until I had to look for another job, just not something we do. So is it a pain sometimes? Yes. Is it a chore? Yes. But it really puts you into the shoes of, reflecting on what you’ve been doing for the past however many years, and then showcasing yourself as like, “Yeah, look at all this awesome stuff I’m doing. This is what I do in my current position. I’m writing curriculum, I’m leading an art department, I’m teaching 450 students.” Whatever that is, the end. So those are the four, I digress, main components of the application.

Tim: Yeah, that’s cool. No, I appreciate the overview and you give a really good breakdown and I think it’s helpful for people to know and kind of what to expect before they get into that. So, and to I guess follow up with that, to continue on with that same idea, let’s say that people were kind of on the fence about applying and then just after listening to you and me on this incredible podcast, they decide-

Shannon: This is exciting.

Tim: This is something I need to do right now. They feel like they definitely need to apply. So what are the next steps for people? Where should they get started?

Shannon: Yeah. So I would say if you’re ready to get started with applying, start collecting your items. Start snapping your pictures. Start thinking about your big goals. Earning a master’s, the application is just the very beginning of opening that door. It’s really a marathon. It will take you at least a couple years probably. So I think the application really allows you to focus on your ultimate why, why you really want to earn a master’s degree and what your motivation is so you can set that big goal and then we can work with you to set those smaller goals that are going to get you there. Then if you have specific questions, go ahead and reach out to our admissions team. You can email us, you can give us a call. Phone number is right on the website. Or I need another one of those clicking links, Tim.

Tim: We will put that one in the show notes too, Shannon.

Shannon: You can fill out the interest form and what that will do is that will give you some information instantly and then an admissions counselor can get in touch with you. Then I guess I would say the last thing you can do is just jump right into the application and just look through it. You can click around all the-

Tim: Wait, wait, wait. Do I need to link to that as well?

Shannon: Tim, I’m going to link to the application that you can just click on.

Tim: Got it.

Shannon: I wish you could see what I’m doing because I’m just holding my finger up in the air and clicking the air. Someday we’ll get there. Technology will catch up with what I’m thinking right now. But so you can click through the actual applications. You can view all of the steps, see all of the requirements before you start on it. Then once you do start on it, you can save it and go back to it weeks later or a few days later and just keep kind of rocking through.

Tim: All right, very cool. Well, I think that is an awesome overview. So thank you, Shannon.

Shannon: My pleasure.

Tim: I’m going to let you go now because I have a lot of work to do on these show notes and all of these links. So we’d better wrap it up.

Shannon: Tim, I’m going to need some more links. Hey, this has been just been so exciting. For my task to follow up, I am going to look up synonyms for exciting so that I have more terms that I could tell people.

Tim: No, I think that’ll be good for you. So next time we have you on, you’ll have a much more broad vocabulary and it’ll be good.

Shannon: Great. 

Tim: So, good work, Shannon. Nice. Well, thanks for your time. It’s always a lot of fun to have you on and I appreciate you getting all this information out there for people.

Shannon: Hey, same, same. Thanks for having me on, Tim.

Tim: All right, thank you too, Shannon. As promised, that conversation was a lot of fun. We will make sure to put all of the links that we talked about in the show notes. If you want to fill out the interest form, see if things will work in your state and just see what’s going on with the master’s degree and see if it will work for you. I hope that this episode answered a lot of your questions for you. If you still have more or just want some information, definitely fill out that interest form and one of our admissions counselors can help you with whatever you need, with whatever you’re looking for. Maybe it’s the right time for you to earn your master’s degree or just take a few more credits, that’s awesome. If not, that’s awesome too. We still have conferences and ongoing learning and lesson plans and resources and most importantly, this podcast continuing to come at you every single week.

Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. We have a pretty exciting announcement coming next week, so make sure you stay tuned. We’ll talk to you then.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.