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Visual Arts earns national accreditation

Paul Dunlap, associate professor of visual arts at UNG and NASAD coordinator, critiques a student's work during a digital photography class.

The University of North Georgia's (UNG) Department of Visual Arts has been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), joining only 345 other schools, colleges and universities across the nation that hold the designation.

Though the peer-reviewed application process took four years to complete, the department has been working toward national accreditation for much longer, said Dr. Pamela Sachant, head of the department.

"The Department of Visual Arts is excited and proud to have been granted NASAD accreditation. Since 2008, we have been working to restructure our curriculum and upgrade studio facilities with the intention of seeking accreditation," Sachant said. "Working together across all campuses, we met NASAD standards, and the students and faculty are now benefitting from being part of a department that has proven itself to be of the highest quality in visual arts education."

Sachant credited Paul Dunlap, associate professor of visual arts at UNG and NASAD coordinator, for his role in the successful application. NASAD doesn't encourage "cookie-cutter" art programs, but the standards are rigorous, especially in areas of facilities, faculty-to-student ratio and safety, Dunlap said.

"Holding NASAD accreditation means that the institution's visual arts program performs at a high level of excellence and is committed to providing the best education possible for its graduates," Dunlap said. "This in turn means that students will be better prepared to gain employment in the many fields of art we teach. NASAD accredited schools will be the institutions that maintain adequate faculty, facilities, library resources, assessment tools and clear goals to make these areas even better."

A key part of the application was a 500-page self-study that includes the history of visual arts on all UNG campuses, credentials, program structure, facilities assessments, faculty-to-student ratios, and other data. It highlighted changes in the department, which have included:

  • Expansion from 13 full-time faculty and 275 students majoring in art in 2013 to 21 full-time faculty and 337 students in fall 2015.
  • New studio facilities in Dahlonega and Oconee and improved facilities and equipment on all campuses
  • Bachelor of Arts in studio art and minor in graphic design on the Gainesville Campus
  • Concentrations in graphic design and digital arts on the Dahlonega Campus

Sachant said future plans include continuing to add faculty to support new program additions, including two next year –ceramics courses in Oconee and a minor in digital arts in Dahlonega and Gainesville. The department's long-range plan includes three potential new degrees by 2017: a Bachelor of Fine Arts; a bachelor's degree in art history; and a Master of Fine Arts, the terminal degree in studio arts.

Dunlap earned his undergraduate degree at UNG and was a recipient of the Hal B. Rhodes III Outstanding Student award his senior year, an award presented annually to the department's top graduates.

"I can think of no better way to honor the very small number of faculty who built this department from the start, the same faculty who taught me that I could accomplish anything I wanted if I was willing to work hard enough, than to share in the role of seeing the program earn this most prestigious accreditation," Dunlap said. "When fear of falling short of our goal crept into my consciousness, I saw the faces of former faculty members Bob Owens, Tommye Scanlin, Win Crannell and Hank Margeson, and this helped me get back up and keep pushing."

For more information about the Department of Visual Arts at UNG, including current degree offerings, visit the website at

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