Jeffrey Morin brings to his new job at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design experience at developing successful academic programs, an ability to build consensus, and a talent for creating books.
“Creating books” is a reference to Morin’s history as a successful book artist, someone who writes, designs, prints and binds books. Even the paper is manufactured by him. His works, produced in editions of about 50 copies per work, appear in gallery collections across North America, Europe, Australia and South Africa.
That last skill — storytelling — is one that will play a role in his relatively new post as president of the 3rd Ward college known as MIAD. Six months into the job, Morin’s stated goal is to get the story of MIAD in front of members of the community, whether they’re potential students, their parents, potential donors or potential business partners.
“It’s really important to tell the story, the real story,” said Morin, 55. “Part of my job is to make sure that story gets out.”
So what’s the story? MIAD is not an arts school producing starving artists, he said. MIAD contributes mightily to the job market, particularly in the Milwaukee area. Nine of every 10 graduates from some programs, including the largest programs at MIAD, find jobs in their field within six months.
What’s more, Morin said, 80 percent of MIAD alums stay in the Milwaukee area. With the college attracting a greater number of students from out of state, that means the arts and design school — with a student body of 630 after admitting the largest freshmen class since 2011 — is countering the city’s “brain drain.”
So the MIAD story will become key to the early years in Morin’s tenure. And it’s something he’s likely to harp on.
“They have to be told more than once because the first time, no one’s going to believe you,” Morin said.
The study areas in demand happen to be MIAD’s biggest programs — communication design and industrial design — and that’s where Morin’s experience in developing academic programs comes into play.
Morin, a native of Madawaska, Maine, a rural, blue-collar paper mill town on the Canadian border, is one of those people whose career went essentially as planned.
“I knew in kindergarten,” he said. “I always knew that I wanted to be an artist and a teacher.”
Even his first job, at age 16, was as a photographer and sometimes writer for a weekly newspaper in Maine. The thrill of having access to newsmakers and the events of the day enticed him into the industry even more.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The range of experience he received in his university studies groomed him for his academic posts at places like Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan., and the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. In both places, he was asked to develop design programs for the colleges to meet a growing demand for design students.
He also utilized that skill at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point when he became a tenured professor there in 1996, and chair of the Department of Art & Design in 2000.
Developing an academic program requires building consensus among leaders of the other fields. That’s a talent that put him high on the list to succeed Neil Hoffman as MIAD president, said Madeleine Kelly Lubar, immediate past chair of the board of trustees, who was chair when Morin was selected.
Lubar described Morin’s management style as inclusive, someone who can work well with faculty and administration.
Morin joins MIAD after Hoffman successfully secured a five-year grant of $3 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to help MIAD build-out its apprenticeship programs. Morin is now the person charged with determining how the money will be spent, and that means fulfilling the expectations of the department heads.
“That’s where I suspect Jeff will shine,” Lubar said, “because he has to bring different constituencies together and he’s very good at it.”
Lubar is also confident in Morin’s ability to tell MIAD’s story and becoming the face of the school.
“He has a sincerity and thoughtfulness that will resonate with the Milwaukee community,” she said.
For Morin, the Labor Department grant is an opportunity to enhance MIAD’s already strong connections with business that include partnerships with companies like Fiskars Americas, Briggs & Stratton Corp., GE Healthcare, Harley-Davidson Inc. and Delta Faucet.
In many study areas, internships play a key role in a student’s education. Morin would like to see internships become a requirement for graduation. The opportunity to expand MIAD’s apprenticeship program could be the climactic element of MIAD’s story.
“It’s going to make that career path much more robust for us,” Morin said.
- Title: President
- Organization: Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Milwaukee
- Age: 55
- Family: Husband, Brian Borchardt
- Education: BFA, interdepartmental, Temple University, Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia; MFA, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Experience: Assistant professor, Bethany College, Kansas; Associate professor, foundation coordinator, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Professor, department chair, dean of College of Fine Arts & Communication, Interim Provost at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; creative director, sailorBOYpress, Stevens Point
- Best career decision: “I spent a year in Italy as an undergraduate studying abroad. It really taught me humility.”
- Most challenging career decision: Leaving the public higher education system (at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)
- Hobbies: Food preparing (or consuming)
- Recent book read: One of the Agatha Raisen murder mysteries by M.C. Beaton. “I read as escape.”
- Hard copy, Kindle or iPad? “Books are made of paper,” Morin says. “I don’t want to wean myself from a book.”