Dr. Meredith Munson has been hired as the new Rocky Mountain College art professor.
For the first time at Rocky, there will be a dedicated art history professor who will help the art department expand the curriculum by adding global perspectives in art-making from prehistoric times to today. With the addition of a new professor, they will also be able to offer a more regular rotation of different art history classes in order to help students meet their fine arts core requirements.
In the fall of 2020, the Rocky Mountain College Art Department welcomed a new art professor into the program to fill the role the previous Professor Mark Moak left. Todd Forsgren has worked at Rocky for a year and a half now, starting during the pandemic. Forsgren is currently the Assistant Professor of Art and the Director of the Ryniker-Morrison Gallery. The art department put off replacing retired professor Jim Baken last year due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, so for a whole year, Forsgren has been the only full-time art professor.
This year, Forsgren and the rest of the art department finally started looking for another full-time professor. Forsgren explains that when looking for a new professor, he wanted “a collaborative colleague, someone who [he] felt confident working alongside as a teammate.” He also needed someone with “broad general knowledge who can come in and teach global art history survey classes.”
Forsgren wanted someone who could teach a new class called Museum Studies and use Rocky’s extensive art collection as a teaching tool for the class. This new class will be replacing the current Art, Art History, and Archeology class. In lieu of the new art professor, the art department has made some significant changes, including the new Museum Studies class, to the art curriculum. Forsgren explains that the art history curriculum is going to be more global-facing in its approach. There have also been some tweaks made to the studio art side of things. Forsgren explains that he has shifted “some of the classes away from media-specific approaches and more toward a topic-based inquiry in art-making,” including classes like Art and Ecology, The Body and Identity, and Text and Data, which will be replacing Digital Nature Photography, Drawing II, and Calligraphy. With a new professor joining the art department, Forsgren will be able to “develop these new classes while also continuing to teach the photography and design classes” that have been offered for the past four semesters.
The process of finding a new art professor, as Forsgren describes it, “is pretty boring stuff.” They posted a job opening, reviewed applications, and did the first round of interviews online, then the second round on campus. Forsgren was amazed by how many candidates applied. A committee of five faculty members screened the applications and invited several people to do a short interview via video chat. After the initial interview, they invited two applicants to campus for a day-long interview. On campus, the candidates met many different people, including students, faculty, human resources, and administration. A group of students took part in a teaching demo (in this case, Forsgren’s art history class) along with an informal lunch with several art students. The committee then collected data from everyone who met the candidates and based on that, they recommended the candidate to the administration. As chair of the search committee, he was responsible for the process and finally decided that Munson would be the best fit for Rocky and the art department.
Munson was born in Huston, Texas, but spent a lot of her childhood in Clemson, South Carolina. She attended high school in Tyler, Texas, and since then, has moved around to many different places, including California and Italy. She says that she hasn’t lived anywhere as cold as Montana. She first graduated from Baylor University with a BA in art history before getting her MA in art history at Texas Christian University, then received her PhD in art history and religion at the Graduate Theological Union (an affiliated school of UC Berkeley). Most of her research focuses on 20th Century modern art, but her interests expand far beyond that.
Since earning her PhD in 2017, she has taught art history at a few different places, including Sam Houston State University, the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas Christian University, and Azusa Pacific University. Before getting her doctorate, she also taught a toddler art class for a few years, so her experience extends way past college students.
Munson’s title at Rocky will be the Postdorcal Teach Fellow in Art History where she will take charge of the art history classes. She is most excited about the smaller class sizes and the fact that she will get to know the students due to the small classes. She believes that art history classes thrive on conversation, so the classes at Rocky are ideal for this opportunity. It currently takes about nine hours to drive to the mountains from Dallas, Munson explains, so she is ready to be in Montana and surrounded by nature.