Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee


Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Hilbert College: Master Plan Amendment to authorize a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Studies and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Degrees


May 30, 2006


Goals 2 and 4






Issue for Decision (Consent Agenda)


       Should the Regents approve an amendment to the master plan of Hilbert College to authorize the College to offer Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degrees in Film Studies and in Theater?


Reason for Consideration


      Required by State regulation.


Proposed Handling


This question will come before the Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee at its June 2006 meeting where it will be voted on and action taken.   It will then come before the full Board at its June meeting for final action.


Procedural History


Master plan amendment is required because these would be the College’s first degree programs in the discipline of Fine Arts.





Background Information


Hilbert College was chartered by the Regents in 1964 as Immaculata College.  The charter was made absolute in 1967; the name was changed to Hilbert College in 1969.   In 1992, a charter amendment authorized the College to award the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees. The College is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.  Hilbert College now proposes to offer programs in Film Studies and in Theatre.




Staff have reviewed the proposed programs and determined that the proposed programs, if approved, would meet the standards for registration set forth in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.


It is recommended that the master plan of Hilbert College be amended, effective June 20, 2006, to authorize the College to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree in Film Studies and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree in Theater.  This amendment will be effective until June 20, 2007, unless the Department registers the programs prior to that date, in which case master plan amendment shall be without term.

Information in Support of Recommendation


Hilbert College is authorized to offer baccalaureate degrees in accounting, business administration, criminal justice, forensic science, economic crime investigation, English, human services, liberal studies, paralegal studies and psychology.   Located in the Town of Hamburg, New York, the College accommodates an enrollment of 1,100 students, representing a diversity of background and experiences. The College has transfer articulation agreements with 24 two-year colleges.


The College proposes to offer B.F.A. programs in Theater and in Film Studies.   This would be the College’s first use of the B.F.A. degree.  Both proposed programs are now being offered as concentrations in the College’s English and Communications Studies programs.  The general admission requirements of the College will apply to these programs.   All students fulfill graduation requirements in basic skills, a liberal arts core curriculum and required courses (including an internship and senior thesis) in a specified major.


The baccalaureate degree in Film Studies will provide students with a unique opportunity to study film in two ways.  After learning the fundamental elements of film studies (historical, generic, theoretical perspectives) students may choose to follow up on this core by focusing on the more traditional scholarly track associated with Film Studies and prepare for graduate school by increasing their breadth in philosophy, theory, and intellectual history. Students may also opt to focus more on aspects of production, thus gaining knowledge and experience in the practice of film making, along with the study of film theory and history.


The baccalaureate degree in Theater will educate students in both the hands-on elements of the discipline (acting, directing, production, technical elements and scriptwriting) and through required coursework and a broad selection of electives that will provide students in the program with a solid foundation in literature and history that informs dramatic art and production.  Theater majors will be able to continue their studies in theater either by focusing on the literary aspects by pursuing a graduate degree in dramatic literature, humanities, and secondary educations or by pursuing graduate work in theater that is more performance oriented.


Hilbert College is currently in the silent phase of a capital campaign that includes as one of its goals the construction of a small theater space as well as a new classroom building with construction to be completed before the beginning of the fall 2006 semester. This theater facility will serve the performance aspect of the theater curriculum.  The theater will have rehearsal space, dressing room spaces and sufficient storage to serve the new Theater Program into the foreseeable future.   The classrooms in the new building will be outfitted with projectors, screens and room darkening shades.   These classrooms will be available for theater and film classes.   Recently, a major grant was given to the College specifically to support the Theater and the Communication Studies Laboratory.   The lab will also support film production courses. 



The McGrath Library resources and databases are sufficient for the first stages of development for each program.   Many of the journals, films, and texts to support the programs have already been added to the collection as part of the course development processes.   


In 2005, the College employed 43 full-time and 55 part-time faculty. There are faculty who have the necessary education and credentials to teach in areas such as film analysis, film and television production, theater and mime, performance and theater troupe operation.


Primarily these two programs are designed as part of an ongoing project to broaden the liberal arts core of the College’s whole curriculum. Projections for enrollment within the two programs reflect this purpose.   There are a growing number of requests for independent studies in the areas of film studies and theater each year.  Enrollment in all film classes is consistently high. The media arts track of the Communication Studies degree has become the largest in the program reflecting student interest in film study and production.  The Admissions Department staff report that one of two of the most common areas about which applicants often ask is the availability of theater courses. 


Students attending Hilbert College come from the surrounding 25 miles and prefer not to go into Buffalo for their postsecondary education.  The new degree programs will also attract transfer students from Erie Community College, South Campus.   Consistent with the primary goal of the two programs as curricula enhancers, estimates of enrollment for the first and fifth year remain modest.  In the first year, Hilbert College will have 5-7 students in the Film Studies Program and two or three in the Theater Program.  Many of these students will have moved internally from the English or Communication Studies programs.   By the fifth year, enrollments of 10-15 students for the Theater Program and 15-20 for the Film Studies Program are anticipated.


In keeping with standard practice, a canvass was conducted of institutions of higher education in the Western Region of New York State.  Three institutions responded indicating no objection to the proposed programs.