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The Eyes Have it: UH Debuts first Visual Studies program in TexasNew Visual Studies Minor Kicks Off This Fall with Inter-Disciplinary Course

We live in a visual world. Images play a role in shaping our perceptions of ourselves, our culture, the environment and the totality of our social experience. Starting this fall, the University of Houston is offering a new undergraduate minor in visual studies (VS) that seeks to explore all aspects of the visual experience.

In addition to being the first of its kind in Texas, visual studies at the University of Houston is the most inclusive, interdisciplinary program of its kind in the nation, said Tracy Xavia Karner, associate professor of sociology and director of the new initiative.


Visual studies brings together 25 affiliated faculty members from more than a dozen disciplines – from anthropology to art, architecture, cognitive science, computer science, communication, history, literary and media studies, optometry, philosophy, psychology, technology and sociology – to offer a broad array of educational opportunities to UH students.

“This initiative in visual studies reflects a broader shift in academia toward reinvigorating the curriculum, and it capitalizes on new technology and new ways of seeing and thinking,” said John Antel, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “A minor in visual studies will position UH graduates to take the lead in this highly relevant field in today’s image-saturated society.”

The VS program also is unique in its community partnerships, Karner said.

“Houston is the home of one of the premiere photography collections at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH), as well as home to Fotofest, the leading photography event in the United States,” she said. “Our local partnerships with the MFAH, Fotofest, Houston Center for Photography, Project Row Houses and Watermark Fine Art Gallery enrich the educational resources we can make available to our students. As we go forward, we hope to reach out to our medical and business community, which uses some of the most advanced imaging technology in the world.”

The inter-disciplinary program offers its first course, “Introduction to Visual Studies” (Visual Studies 1300, also listed as Anthropology 4394 in UH course listings) this fall. The course will be led by the Jerome Crowder, assistant professor of anthropology and co-director of VS, in cooperation with the affiliated VS faculty. Each week, the three-hour course will feature two lecturers from different academic backgrounds offering insight related to visual studies.

“We have identified a number of people on campus who will help shape this program and help it grow,” Crowder said. “Each faculty member or expert involved with the program will contribute a different perspective related to the concept of visual studies. It’s this kind of insight and dialogue that makes UH’s program unique.”

The course is the first stage of this three-part sequential minor program. During the second stage, students select from approved inter-disciplinary courses, which include courses such as “History of Art,” “Literature and Film” and “Survey of Architectural History.” During the third stage, students take the minor’s capstone course, VS 4300, which focuses on a mentored research project or a community internship supplemented by an essay or project related to this experience.

VS also hosts public lectures featuring noted guests specializing in art, photography and other visual topics. Photographer Sally Mann, visual sociologist/photographer Cathy Stein Greenblat and artist John Paul Caponigro were among recent guests featured at VS events during the 2007 spring semester.

For more information on UH’s visual studies program, curriculum and events, visit www.visualstudies.uh.edu.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas’ premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

For more information about UH visit the university’s ‘Newsroom’ at www.uh.edu/admin/media/newsroom.

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