, offered by Summer Sessions since 2004, are another big draw for the teen set. This collection of 12 intensive, hands-on, college-level courses range from one to six weeks in length and are geared for 10th through 12th graders —with students as young as 14 years old earning UCLA credits.
Blindfolded, high school students shape clay during a Summer Art Institute class.
The institutes cover a wide spectrum, from the performing arts (acting, dance, theater) to the visual arts (drawing, photography, sculpture and other art media) and the sciences (nanoscience and stem cell science.) The course list also includes heritage languages
, a nanoscience art lab, global green business trends, mock trial, writing and model United Nations, among other areas of study. Some of the institutes require teacher recommendations and a submission of projects or portfolios, while others do not.
Hazel Handan, a 17-year-old artist intent on exploring different media, will be entering her senior year at Hoover High School in Glendale with a UCLA Art Institute in sculpture on her resume. "The instructors are just awesome," Handan said. "I couldn’t have asked for better. … They nurture you here with knowledge. If I’m pondering about something, they’ll suggest, ‘Let’s look at what this artist did,’ or ‘Have you thought about doing this?’ And then everything clicks. It’s a very good relationship."
Adjacent to the spacious sculpture studio in the Broad Art Center where teens work with sculpting tools of all kinds is an exhibition space where Handan already displays work on themes of female rage, danger and sensuality.
Hazel Handan, 17, prepares to work on a piece during a sculpture class.
"We have access to faculty, undergraduates and graduate students who can help you develop your portfolio," said Handan, who won one of 23 Summer Sessions scholarships available. "I’m getting a taste of what it’s like to be in college. It’s so unique because visiting artists come by to lead a class. You never get that kind of access in high school."
In another part of the Broad building, Kyle Pratt, a senior from Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, looks over his color photographs of gritty downtown alleyways and signs. His summer began with an adrenaline-pumping trip to Alaska where he and two friends were flown by a bush pilot to the foothills of snow-covered Denali. After summiting the highest mountain peak in North America, Pratt chose to attend the Art Institute in photography.
His goal is to learn the entire process of developing color photos, adding yet another "star" to his already brimming portfolio. "I’ll be able to have a well-rounded college application with this summer experience," he noted.
Down a narrow hallway, photography students patiently take turns waiting for a large printer to spit out their color prints. Photos are pinned to a wall for viewing next to a darkroom. "We have a pretty nice advanced photography studio at my school," Pratt said, "but UCLA just blows that out of the water with everything they have here."
Just as mind-blowing is the fact that the students are visited by two of UCLA’s most renowned photographers on the arts faculty — James Welling and Catherine Opie— who drop by to encourage and critique.
To make the institutes even more attractive to high school students, Summer Sessions offers anyone taking one of the 10 short-term institutes — for example, a two-week architectural studio where students develop design skills and take field trips to landmark buildings and architectural offices — a chance to live on the Hill. The residency package includes a room, meal plan and recreational activities, with supervision by a residence counselor.
The institutes are the creation of UCLA’s academic departments, which propose the courses, plan the curriculum, and provide the teachers and teaching assistants. The revenue earned through the Summer Art Institute, said Carol Endo, general manager for the Department of Art, "provides invaluable support for the department to make up for shortfalls caused by budget cuts."
The departments also benefit by being able to reach out to high-achieving high school students, some of whom later become UCLA students. As part of its marketing campaign, Summer Sessions purchases from the College Board listings of high school students who have scored well on the PSAT. Students will then receive emails about what’s available for them at UCLA. And counselors at more than 800 high schools in the Los Angeles area will receive printed materials they can share with students.
"That’s been very successful for us," said Makdani of the marketing campaign. "We cast a pretty big net, and this year, we actually began visiting the high schools to talk about the programs. We’ve also had people from the various departments who teach at the institutes come to talk about them."
The cost to take an academic course during Summer Sessions is $339 per unit. Most of the institutes range from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on whether a residency package is included.
But from the start, counselors also make it clear to potential summer Bruins that taking a summer course will give them no extra advantage to being admitted to UCLA. Completing an undergraduate-level course at UCLA successfully, said Makdani, "just shows the college admissions office that students can handle college-level work."