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Andrea Monsalvo, Dana Benzaken, and Denise Bzurovaski

By Camila Hubbs and Isabel Pulgarin

Miami International University of Art & Design (MIU) closed permanently on Sept. 30, 2023, leaving many students stressed about their future academic careers. Today, Barry University has become a haven during the sudden fallout.

MIU students, faculty and ad­ministration were unaware that the sudden closure was occurring until an email was sent out a few days prior on Sept. 22, said graphic design senior Andrea Monsalvo.

“At the end of the trimester, [we] got an email basically saying that the school will be closing, and we couldn't come back next quarter. Everyone found out that way,” said Monsalvo.

The feeling of being excited for the upcoming break quickly changed to a feeling of uncer­tainty in their academic future.

“It was very devastating to all of us, especially for the international students that had a student visa with that school,” she said. “Most of us were very lost and a lot of people lost their jobs in a heart­beat.”

Dana Benzaken, a graphic design senior and international student, suffered increased stress due to the situation. “I had less time to figure out what I was going to do. They gave us ten days to make all the transfer and paperwork.”

Denise Bzurovaski

Denise Bzurovaski, also a senior graphic design student, said there was writing on the wall for some time.

“My friend called me and told me to look at my email! And I did and couldn't believe it but at the same time I wasn't sur­prised,” she said. “We knew the university wasn't doing well but we never thought they were going to actually close the way they did it.”

The Art Institutes had a settle­ment with the Justice Depart­ment for $95 million in 2015 over claims of illegal recruiting and consumer fraud, lost their accreditation in 2018 and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had a major decrease in student enroll­ment.

The Sept. 22 university-wide email stated the following:

“Due to the timing of this deci­sion, The Art Institutes have not had sufficient time to engage with other colleges and universities in their respective markets to sign formal agreements for students to transfer and continue their studies elsewhere.”

Essentially, the school left it up to the students to figure out the next leg of their journey themselves. This was when Barry University stepped in.

Dana Benzaken

“After everything happened at MIU, Barry offered an open house for all the students. I really loved the campus, and the people were so helpful and understand­ing with us,” said Benzaken.

Monsalvo said Barry was very welcoming to her and her peers.

“They opened the door for us when no other schools would,” she said. “We even got to start in the middle of the fall semester last year, they accepted all of our credits and made the transition for us very easy.”

Barry University is one of about 20 institutions that have created a formal transfer/articulation agreement with The Art Insti­tutes to provide students with the opportunity to complete their education.

Benzaken said the transition hap­pened so quickly that she feels like she’s “been at Barry forever.”

Barry’s Fine Arts Chair Nicole Beltran stated that the depart­ment made a number of ac­commodations to help “make the transition easy for the MIU students by quickly assessing each of the student transcripts” and “conducting consecutive tours of the fine arts department.”

Barry’s Fine Arts Chair Nicole Beltran

"It gave motivation again to finish my studies. Having great faculty to count on and a beau­tiful campus to enjoy! It really elevated my experience!” said Bzurovski. “They accepted all my credits! If they didn't, I don't know what I would've done!”

Monsalvo admitted that Barry is a bigger campus and took a little bit getting used to.

“At first, the transition was a little difficult. I felt lost when it came to the campus. In MIU I was used to it being small buildings where everyone knew each other and coming to a new campus that was bigger was a little over­whelming,” she said.

The Department of Fine Arts re­ceived a total of 40 students from MIU: 10 graphic design, 20 stu­dio art and 10 MFA photography students. Besides a safe place to jump ship, the university offered the students certain benefits they did not receive at their previous institution.

Barry currently has two state-of-the-art Macintosh labs with the latest editions of Adobe creative software offered to all fine arts majors. Bzurovski commented that the equipment at Barry is “much better.”

“It's more advanced and the fact that we have an open campus is just amazing! We didn't even have a working cafeteria these last years so it feels like I upgrad­ed!” she said.

Currently, seven Barry professors teach the bulk of these student transfers in studio arts, graphic design and photography, includ­ing two visiting professors. It took some tweaking, according to Bel­tran, since the department had to “reactivate a studio art special­ization that had been inactive for two semesters to accommodate the new studio art majors” and then hire a new full-time studio art professor as well as studio art adjuncts.

Andrea Monsalvo

But for Monsalvo, it all paid off.

“For faculty involvement, I felt right away how everyone here is more engaged with the stu­dents [and] can help us out with everything we need right away,” said Monsalvo. “I feel the profes­sors are more involved with the students.”

Beltran volunteered to teach an extra graphic design class for the students to receive the credits needed.

From carnivals for holidays to guest speaker lectures, Barry’s active campus life is another amenity that MIU lacked.

Denise Bzurovaski, Dana Benzaken, and Andrea Monsalvo

“I have seen that there is al­ways something going on for the students such as events, etc., which I think is very nice. That is something that at MIU we didn't have,” said Monsalvo.

Newly hired former MIU profes­sor, Brian Hively, is credited by Beltran as “key in bringing the MIU students to our campus.”

Many in Barry’s faculty helped make this process as smooth as it was: Betsy Thomas in Financial Aid; Gus Griffith, Xiomara Mar­tinez, Danielle Pineda and Julie Isha in Admissions; Professors of Photography Sara Rytteke and RemiJin Camping; and Dr. Karen Callaghan, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.


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