Graduate Admissions

Interdisciplinary Arts Student Spotlight

Interdisciplinary Arts Faculty Jeff Abell


Justin Botz

For Justin Botz, the Interdisciplinary Arts MA program at Columbia has two great strengths: its community and its scope. In his time at Columbia, Justin has been pleased to discover that the program promotes in its students a “desire to work together and collaborate.” He is happy to be working with artists of all types: dancers, actors, paper artists, visual artists, musicians and filmmakers. In Interdisciplinary Arts, these diverse backgrounds come together to generate multi-faceted projects. Students also help each other discover their own voices through endless exploration. For Justin, Columbia offers an encouraging community in which he can develop further as an artist.

A native of California, Justin’s background is just as varied as those of his fellow students. His undergraduate major was cultural anthropology, but he has been working in film/video and folk music for years. After graduation, he moved to Cambodia to run a film production company with a friend. While in Cambodia, he became involved in Water of Life, an organization that provides safe drinking water and hosts an arts center for underprivileged children, where Justin taught music.

The Interdisciplinary Arts department offers him far more avenues for artistic exploration than he was expecting.

Since coming to Columbia, Justin has expanded his artistic horizons and is now involved with a variety of art forms: paper, sound, sculpture, and modern dance. The Interdisciplinary Arts department offers him far more avenues for artistic exploration than he was expecting. Justin was particularly surprised by the variety of artistic traditions covered. “I was pleased to find that there is a global sensitivity in the program,” he relates.

To Justin, the program offers “tremendous freedom and options for expression.” He finds that openness both exciting and, at times, overwhelming. However, he has come to rely on his classmates to help him discover his artistic voice. The faculty and his peers offer him a safe environment in which to experiment with a variety of forms, while preventing him from getting lost amid the myriad artistic avenues available to him. After his first semester in the program, Justin says that he remains “excited for the endless possibilities within Interdisciplinary Arts.”

The faculty and his peers offer him a safe environment in which to experiment with a variety of forms, while preventing him from getting lost amid the myriad artistic avenues available to him.

Justin found the MA in Interdisciplinary Arts through a friend who had attended the program. He anticipates that it will likewise help him “focus, move forward, and find a distinct creative voice.” He also believes that the MA is a flexible degree, one that will provide him with creative and critical thinking skills that he can put to use in numerous careers. After he graduates, Justin hopes to use his experiences at Columbia to help Water of Life build a new school. He thinks that the Interdisciplinary Arts degree is “great preparation” for continuing his work in Cambodia—his experiences in Chicago are forming and refining his artistic sensibilities and will help him become a better educator and a more flexible member of the Water of Life team.

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