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Amidst Impressive Growth, Mississippi College Department of Art Embraces New Leader

Stephanie Dickson Busbea, professor and art education program coordinator, will serve as chair of the Art Department at Mississippi College.
Stephanie Dickson Busbea, professor and art education program coordinator, will serve as chair of the Art Department at Mississippi College.

The Department of Art at Mississippi College is well known for being a bustling community of talented creators, but rarely has it been more active.

The department recently remodeled its graphic design studios in the Aven Fine Arts Building and will soon hire a graphic design instructor. The moves will help the graphic design program double in size during the fall semester.

The department just launched its first summer camp at MC. Art education majors are influencing the next generation of creators by introducing students in grades 2 through 6 to a variety of mediums, from ceramics and sculpture to print-making and painting. The goal is to encourage young people to pursue the artistic styles that interest them the most.

Earlier this month, final details were being made to the auditorium and lobby area of the Samuel Gore Arts Complex, signaling that the department’s new home will be ready for its formal dedication this fall. The remodeling of the Institute for Southern Storytelling, housed at the complex, has already begun.

And this fall, the department will offer more “Makerspaces” – Friday afternoon art activities for MC faculty and staff to flex their artistic muscles – dedicated to papermaking and digital art.

In the midst of all these projects, the department will have a new leader – if only for a short time.

Randolph B. Miley, professor of art, has stepped down as chair of the department to assume duties as a full-time teacher. Stephanie Dickson Busbea, professor and art education program coordinator, will serve as chair until Miley resumes the position in about 12 months.

An accomplished painter and papermaker, Miley said he plans to spend time in his studio working on his artwork in the interim.

“I have neglected my commitment to my craft for too long,” said Miley, who has been chair of the department for 24 years. “As I teach, I will plan and assess my studio classes, particularly Drawing I and Papermaking. Recently, I assumed the role of director of the graduate thesis classes and I plan to prepare myself better to lead these students.

“Finally, I also have a department project that demands my attention. All of this will be done during my normal ‘chair time’ – I always plan big!”

Busbea, who has worked alongside Miley for a number of years, said she is delighted to help lead the department during his hiatus.

“I am glad to help the department in this way,” Busbea said. “I am familiar with the work Dr. Miley does, and I look forward to trying to maintain the excellence that he’s established with this position. We want to continue all the good projects the department has going.

“It’s an exciting time for the Department of Art.”

Professor of art at MC since 1997 and a former adjunct instructor of art, Busbea has a B.S.E. in art education from Arkansas State University, an M.A.Ed. in art education from the University of Georgia, and a Ph.D. in art education from the University of North Texas. She has served the Christian University as assistant chair of the Department of Art, student teaching supervisor, and graduate reader.

Coordinator of MC’s art education program, she has maintained numerous leadership roles with the National Art Education Association and the Mississippi Art Education Association. Recipient of the NAEA’s Marion Quin Dix Leadership Award, she has served as MAEA president-elect from 2015-17, president from 2017-19, and past president from 2019-21. She has also served on the NAEA Convention Delegates Assembly, the National Leadership Conference, the Mississippi Arts Commission Arts Education Panel, and as the MAEA Fall and Spring Conference coordinator, among other appointments.

Busbea has built strong relationships with art teachers across the Magnolia State and beyond, and she successfully organized the approval of the media arts certification program to allow educators to expand their licensed teaching areas.

She has orchestrated numerous regional activities for her students, including painting murals for Shower Power and hosting art exhibitions to benefit Stewpot Community Services. These nonprofit organizations minister to the homeless population in Jackson. Each year, she works with art education students to create beautiful Christmas ornaments for sale on the Clinton campus to help pay for the senior students’ trip to the NAEA annual convention.

Miley said Busbea will lend experience and confidence to her new post.

“Dr. Busbea and I are great friends,” he said. “She understands the complexity of the chair job and can step in and lead the department forward. She has served this department faithfully for 25 years. This gives her direct insight into the life of the department.”

In turn, Busbea credits the department’s faculty and staff for providing tremendous support during the leadership transition.

“Dr. Miley has given me different assignments over the years, so I understand all of the work of the department,” she said. “Nate Jarnagin, our administrative assistant and Gore Arts Complex coordinator, does a fantastic job taking care of that facility. We have an incredible group of student workers who help maintain our labs, do all tasks. and give tours to potential students. We’ve got excellent support staff who are reliable and keep everything running,

“We’re a big team. We get along well. Dr. Miley has built this great family. We work well together, which makes this job easier to do – we like who we work with.”

Miley said he intends to return in a year and complete a quarter-century of service as chair of the department.

“I look forward to stepping back next year,” he said. “In the summer of 2024, I plan to resume my duties as chair with a renewed spirit. It is important for me to complete my 25th year as chair.

“God has blessed me with a wonderful job. During the past few years, we have witnessed God’s hand in our department. He has given us a golden opportunity for outreach by bringing students to us, both locally and from across the globe. Working with and watching them grow in their artistic talent and skills has been a blessing. It has also been a blessing for us to interact and learn from them.

“There is work to be done in this dimension of outreach, and I eagerly anticipate the future.”