When Susanna Speirs Ali was recruited to teach in the College of the Arts' Metals and Jewelry Program in the late 1990s, she began to breathe new life into the discipline by creating a renewed sense of community. She reinvented the facility and designed courses that offered rigorous and compelling content. Fourteen years later, Metals and Jewelry is thriving and attracting students throughout the country. Classes are full and often have wait lists.
Colleagues credit Susanna, who now heads the program, with turning it around. She is recognized as an outstanding teacher and mentor who has created an environment that accommodates a wide range of metal working capabilities. Students now have the opportunity to work in one of the most diverse metals programs in the country that hosts a state-of-the-art facility. Access is available to jewelry benches, enameling kilns, a casting area, a large blacksmithing and sculptural metals area, and individual workstations for graduate students.
Susanna has taught and developed more than 12 classes in the Metals Program and two outside of her discipline in the Foundation and Sculpture Programs. Classes incorporate hands-on demonstrations, lectures and presentations, as well as class discussions and regular critiques that encourage peer exchange.
Susanna's dedication to students extends outside the classroom and lab. She serves as faculty advisor for the Metal Arts Guild. In the past five years, she has been the primary sponsor of more than 27 graduate and undergraduate solo exhibitions, 10 on-campus group exhibitions and three off-campus exhibitions. In this capacity, she mentors the students, oversees installation of the exhibitions, attends openings and evaluates student performance, spending as many as 10 weekends each semester on campus. She also regularly attends conferences and symposia with her students to deepen connection to the field and increase students' professional practice. Under Susanna's leadership, the Metals and Jewelry students' excellent exhibitions are highly acclaimed - proof of the quality of her teaching and the vision Susanna holds for her students and the program at large.