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Ellen Meyer

President Ellen Meyer Announces August 2015 Retirement

January 9, 2015

Watkins College of Art, Design & Film President Ellen L. Meyer has announced that she will retire on August 1, 2015, after serving in the office for seven years.

“It has been and continues to be a privilege to steward Watkins, to participate in its evolution, and to be part of this community of vitally engaged students, faculty, staff, board, alumni and friends,” said President Meyer. “Watkins is a college on the move—a beacon in art, design and film education in Nashville and beyond.”

Samuel E. Stumpf, Jr., chair of the Board of Trustees, applauded President Meyer and her contributions to the college. “Ellen is retiring at the end of a long and distinguished career in arts education,” Mr. Stumpf said. “Thanks to her outstanding leadership and numerous accomplishments during her tenure at Watkins, the college is well positioned to attract a strong successor who will continue the college’s growth and development as a nationally recognized, independent college of art, design and film.”

The board has established a presidential search committee, chaired by trustee Larry Papel, and a national search process is underway.

Ms. Meyer began her work as the institution’s 15th president on August 1, 2008. Under her energetic leadership, she has led Watkins to a place of recognition and prestige among the best colleges of art in the country. Achievements include the realization of a decade-long goal of regional accreditation of the college through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC, in 2010) and re-accreditation of the Department of Interior Design by Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD), the national accrediting agency for art and design and art and design-related disciplines.

In 2011, Watkins gained acceptance into the prestigious Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD), a consortium of 43 leading visual arts colleges in the United States and Canada.

Under President Meyer’s guidance, the campus itself has also experienced significant transformation, such as expansion of and improvements to the main academic building, including a 10,000-square-foot addition/renovation featuring student center with café, computer lab, meeting rooms and individual studio space, and development of the campus lakeside.

At The pARTy 2014: Board Chair Sam Stumpf, President Ellen Meyer and Commissioners Susan A. Basham, Brownlee O. Currey, Jr. and Walter Knestrick (photo by Jeremy Ryan)

At The pARTy 2014: Board Chair Sam Stumpf, President Ellen Meyer and Commissioners Susan A. Basham, Brownlee O. Currey, Jr. and Walter Knestrick (photo by Jeremy Ryan)

During her tenure, academic standards have consistently been raised in Watkins’ BFA degree programs in Film, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Interior Design and Photography, BA in Art, and Certificate in Film and (added 2013) in Interior Design. The strengthening of nationally competitive programs has included the addition of concentrations in illustration, web design and sustainable design and a commercial focus in photography, as well as the opening of an off-site student gallery, WAG (Watkins Arcade Gallery), in downtown Nashville. Watkins has also established an academic partnership with Belmont University and fostered numerous professional and community collaborations. Through the Community Education department, the Pre-College Program was created to introduce high school students to a college-like experience and careers in art, design and filmmaking.

And in the midst of a national economic downturn, Watkins has remained fiscally sound, achieved high-level fundraising, and established a professional admissions office with increasingly sophisticated student recruitment efforts.

Click on image to read Nashville Arts Q&A (May 2010)

Click on image to read Nashville Arts Q&A (May 2010)

Ms. Meyer has brought much visibility of Watkins to the community through involvement in a number of service and professional organizations. A board member of the Arts at the Airport Foundation, she holds membership in the Rotary Club of Nashville, the Tennessee Women’s Forum, the Education Council of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, and serves on the OZ Arts Advisory Board and the National Museum of African American Music Education Advisory Council. She is an alumna of Leadership Nashville (Class of 2011) and Leadership Music (Class of 2013), as well as Leadership Atlanta (Class of 1994).

Regionally and nationally, she is an active member of the art, design and business communities. She has served on the Commission on Accreditation for the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, on the Board of Trustees for the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, as chair of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education, on the Board of Trustees of the John C. Campbell Folk School, on the Board of Trustees of the Midtown Alliance in Atlanta, on the Board of Directors of the National Black Arts Festival, and on selection panels for the Art-in-Architecture Program of the U.S. Government’s General Services Administration

Before coming to Watkins, Ms. Meyer was president of Atlanta College of Art for 14 years. Earlier in her career, Ms. Meyer was Director of Continuing Education and Special Programs at Rhode Island School of Design and Vice President of Marketing and Extension at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her wide and varied experience in the arts, art education and arts management also includes director of a ceramics program for the National Parks Service, instructor in art history and ceramics, college gallery director, and researcher and lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution. President Meyer has conceived, developed and managed more than 75 special programs and symposia in art and design, architecture, and community planning.

A native of Philadelphia, she earned both Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Art History and Theory from George Washington University and pursued additional graduate studies at the Visual Art Center, Antioch University, in ceramics. She received a Leadership in Public Policy Certificate from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota and a Certificate from the Executive Education program at the School of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology.