Spartans of UD: Alan Garfield

Jan 29, 2020

Spartans of UD highlights what makes University of Dubuque special – the people who live, work, and study on campus.

Alan Garfield is the chair and professor of digital art and design as well as the director of the Bisignano Art Gallery. He is married to Phyllis Garfield, director of international student services and study abroad.

1. How did you end up at University of Dubuque? How long have you worked here?

“I was teaching up the road at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Art Department’s graduate program. In 1999, I was hired at University of Dubuque as a consultant to see if the program I put together at UW–Madison and other places would work here. A consultant does three things: observes, writes a report, and cashes a check. Funny thing, though. When I submitted the report to President Jeffrey Bullock, he said something to the effect, “Now, would you like to see if what you said could be done here, could be done?” I was shocked. I wasn’t looking for a job, but with some coaxing my wife agreed to move and that was 20 years ago. Twenty years! Wow! What a great journey this has been."

2. As the director of the Bisignano Art Gallery, how do you develop the shows that appear in the gallery?

“I love the Bisignano Art Gallery. Our role is to engage with various community, student, and academic groups at UD. Faculty suggest shows; community members suggest shows; students suggest shows. I try to hit a balance. In addition, we have a Gallery Committee that suggests and approves each academic years’ shows. Finally, the list goes to the Office of the President.”

3. Roughly how many study abroad courses/programs have you led for UD students?

“Wow. I have to think and look at all the photo books we’ve done. Three trips a year, sometimes four multiplied by 20 years. Yikes. No wonder my patient wife rolls her eyes every time I suggest another student trip. There have been hundreds and hundreds of students plus many colleagues who have traveled with me. These are all people with tremendous patience and, at the end of a trip, sore feet with much dirty laundry. But their smiles are worth it.”

4. What advice do you have for students?

“My advice for students is that I hope they find, in their time here in class and outside class, a major or an activity that they are passionate about. Turn that passion through work into a success story. Come to UD to work; if you want to skip school, just stay home.”

5. What is your favorite spot on campus? Why?

“My favorite spot on campus is the third floor of Heritage Center. There the most brilliant, kind, and caring woman in the world works. It’s fun to grab a cup of coffee with her from time to time. We might get serious someday.”