Entrance of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by: Robert Knopes/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago will continue to push for diversity among its students in the wake of the recent US Supreme Court decision overturning affirmative action policies.

“We at SAIC will always work to create an inclusive campus. We recruit widely, across the country and overseas, as we know that the talent and desire to pursue pressing issues through art and design exists among all peoples,” said Elissa Tenny, president of SAIC.

While she is concerned about the chilling effect the decision will have on higher education, SAIC’s current admissions policies will not be affected, Tenny said. The school’s population of 3,500 students is currently 60% diverse and 40% white.

“For over a dozen years we have worked hard to develop a very diverse candidate pool,” said Tenny. “Our focus is much more on the recruiting end and developing this very diverse pool so that when they’re in the application process, we’re not using the race to make a decision because we have a diverse pool of candidates.”


One way to do this is through the school’s College of Arts Access program, a three-year college bridge program for Chicago public school high school students who can’t afford SAIC.

The free tuition opportunity gives students experience for further higher art education and covers their supplies, transportation, and meal costs. Students can also live in the school’s dormitories during the summer.

“CPS has a nearly 90 percent nonwhite student population. So we identify sophomores who can then begin working with our faculty and staff both in developing their portfolios, but also preparing them for college,” Tenny said.

The hope is that students in the program will apply to SAIC. Since the program’s launch in 2014, 100% of students have been admitted to college.

A diverse campus makes for a healthier, more inclusive and productive experience for everyone, Tenny said. This is especially important in a creative educational environment.

“A student’s portfolio is a critically important part of the application.” Tenny said. ‘Higher arts education traditionally had this Eurocentric perspective in terms of artistic creation. Everything has changed dramatically. We need to make sure that our admissions officers, in particular, have training in cultural skills, for example.’

That training ensures that the student’s portfolios are viewed through more of a lens than what makes good art, Tenny said.

“We need to make sure our admissions understand how wallets are going to look different and should look different,” he said.

SAIC will also maintain initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.

SAIC is also seeking its inaugural Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to bring a “cohesive vision to anti-racism initiatives underway in many areas of the school,” Tenny said in a statement.