Art department’s photography concentration closes

Photography concentration comes to an end due to low enrollment.


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Art department’s photography concentration ends.

Dania Lopez, former student at Biola University, first came to Biola in fall 2021, interested in a pre-medical route as a biology major. Still unsure of what she wanted to pursue and feeling pressure as a first-generation college student to fit traditional career paths, she decided to start her college journey with a major in the sciences. She recently decided to transfer to California Baptist University for a degree in interior design, a major that Biola University does not currently offer. 


“I was a design major for [about] two weeks,” Lopez said. “But I think that’s [the field] where I’m [going to] stay, because I’ve been interested in design and I just felt like I needed to fit the traditional major since I’m coming from an immigrant family and I’m first generation.” 

Lopez was hoping to utilize her design major to focus on interior design and explore her passion for photography with some of the classes that were being offered. 

During the second week of the semester, Lopez began hearing about the changes that occurred across the campus and had already been considering transferring out of Biola due to personal reasons; she then made the final decision to withdraw during the third week of school. 

“I couldn’t see myself having my dad spend this much money at a school where I couldn’t trust them to keep the programs that I wanted to be involved in, like photography,” said Lopez. 

Lopez, however, countered this statement with, “I feel like [cuts being made to the art department] was kind of a factor [in leaving]. But with what I was going through, I think I still would have withdrawn [regardless of the cuts being made] … There’s a lot of personal reasons for me leaving, which outweigh the other reasons academically.”

Lopez explained attending CBU would help her maintain a close relationship with her family and church community in Hesperia, California, while providing an education more suited to her career goals. 

“Knowing that my parents were here to support me, when I would come back home for this semester meant a lot, because with interior design, I would be able to go under my dad’s wing and learn from him, and then build a business,” Lopez said. “So the interior design just felt perfect. I think it was definitely God’s plan, because it just seems perfect. I’m going to be close to my church and be closer to my little brother.”


CBU offers prospective students a multitude of different majors within the arts within three colleges: College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design, College of Arts and Sciences, and Shelby and Ferne Collinsworth School of Performing Arts. Within the College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design alone, they offer a total of ten different majors and minors including: architecture, illustration, graphic design & visual experience, film, photography, interior design, fine art, art therapy, art education and art history. 

At CBU, three colleges represent the arts whereas arts at Biola are solely represented by the School of Fine Arts and Communication and Cinema Media Arts. 

Depending on the student experience, both universities offer prospective students a widely different educational experience. CBU has double the enrolled students and lower tuition in comparison to Biola. However, Biola offers a smaller student to faculty ratio of 13-1 in comparison to the 18-1 ratio at CBU.

With changes happening in SOFAC due to low enrollment within the programs, the art department is currently lacking the student demand for the photography concentration. Despite there being only three students currently enrolled in the photography concentration, Chair of the Art Department Jonathan Puls reflects on what losing the photography concentration would mean for Biola.

“It’s been a tough few years for photography here. I also know we’ve lost photography expertise in journalism as well, at the same time,” Puls said. “As a faculty member at Biola, I think that [the] medium is terribly important, and [it is] sad that we don’t have an expert on campus in that, or won’t have [an expert] after this semester, in a full time role. We’ll have to have adjuncts.”


With the new Bardwell building renovations coming to completion during the fall of 2021, Puls explained that the new equipment has been an attraction in recruiting new and prospective students. 

“I think our enrollment is up. It’s not necessarily up in all areas, you know. Some of our studio areas and the BFA are lower than we’d like them to be,” Puls said. “We also have [been] coming off a nadir in terms of our student enrollment during COVID.”

It can be dismaying for students who planned to use the new spaces, such as the darkroom and photography studio, for a concentration that no longer exists. While explaining that the plans for the building were created well before the pandemic, Puls ensured that the art department will still be offering lower division photography courses. The Art department will most likely only offer upper division photography courses for students based on student demand, however. 

“We will continue to offer intro to photo classes. We may be able to offer additional upper division classes, like Photo II … depending on student demand,” said Puls. “Once the students that are currently enrolled in those programs graduate, art will offer little to none of those courses that are at the upper levels of the photo program because there won’t be a reason to offer them. We will have to remove the concentration from the catalog.”

When asked how the School of Fine Arts and Communication will maintain the retention rate of students currently enrolled in its programs, Todd Guy, Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Communication said in an email statement, “We will continue to focus on excellence in the classroom and continue to provide high impact experiences for our students.”

Despite choosing to withdraw from Biola this semester and transfer to CBU, Lopez noted that her time at Biola was extremely impactful towards her educational and career journey.

This article first appeared in print on Feb. 23, 2023 in the Chimes Magazine Vol. 2, Issue 3 edition with the headline “A Time For Everything: Art department’s photography concentration comes to an end during low enrollment.”
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