Eric Hinsch, Class of 2013 Student Representative
Eric Hinsch of Hancock has been named the Finlandia University Class of 2013 Student Representative. Hinsch completes his bachelor of fine arts (BFA) in fiber arts and fashion design, summa cum laude, this April.
Hinsch has appeared on the university's Dean's List in all six of his semesters at Finlandia, with a 4.0 GPA in all but one semester. He served on the Finlandia Student Senate for two years: in 2010-11 as the non-traditional student representative, in 2011-12 as campus and community events coordinator. In the spring 2012 semester, he worked as interim residence hall coordinator while the university conducted a search to fill the department's director position.
"I love small colleges," Hinsch says. "President Johnson talked to me my first day on campus! You know everybody and it's a little more relaxed than bigger schools."
Hinsch is high-energy, positive, and productive. "I can't not be busy with something," he says. He thinks of himself as a fine craftsman, as opposed to a fine artist, because of his preference to create practical, functional artworks, like clothing.
For his Diploma Works, an intensive final project required of all International School of Art & Design (ISAD) graduating seniors, Hinsch will curate an interdisciplinary exhibit of eight artworks. For the project, he invited five professional artists to create a piece with the theme "The Art and Science of Technology," responding to those works with three of his own.
A returning adult learner-a description he prefers to "non-traditional student''-Hinsch says he appreciates the diverse student population at Finlandia and finds the Copper Country an accepting community. He says he has found that Finlandia faculty and staff are open to helping him meet his expectations as an adult learner.
"Phyllis encourages students to explore on their own and she's flexible enough to focus on particular topics as needed," Hinsch says of fiber arts professor Phyllis Fredendall, adding that he finds that the best way to begin to learn something new is to first try to figure it out on your own, and ask questions later.
"Eric has been a true gift to the studio, the department, the campus, and the community," says Fredendall. "He embodies that perfect blend of humor, intellect, generosity of spirit, and love of musical theater. I expect him to continue his feverish (and skillful) knitting in Oregon and participate in every Finlandia Fiber Student and ALUMNI fashion show in the next several decades. His next home, Corvalis, is indeed a fortunate place."
ISAD dean and associate professor Denise Vandeville has also encouraged Hinsch to excel. "Denise gears her upper level courses more like a graduate-level class, with little traditional lecture and a lot of discussion," he says, noting that Vandeville challenges students to think for themselves, to synthesize and apply what they know, and always to consider the answer to the question, Why?
Hinsch is also grateful to Vandeville for referring him to the book "101 Things to Learn in Art School," which he has found essential in the application of his knowledge to his work as an artist.
Rick Loduha, associate professor of interdisciplinary design, also guided Hinsch in the application of knowledge through classes including Noetic Skills, Design Research Skills, and Human Factors and Ergonomics. "He encourages discussion and ideas," Hinsch says of Loduha's teaching method. "He looks for well-thought out answers and stresses to students that we should be able to apply our learning to whatever we're doing."
Hinsch has resided in the university's residence hall during his three years at Finlandia. "When I started, I didn't know about the area, so it was less complicated than trying to find an off-campus apartment," he explains. He says he finds that it's less expensive than living off-campus, he doesn't have to worry about preparing meals, and-most importantly-he can concentrate on completing his degree.
Hinsch is a past president of the Finlandia Pride Alliance, started in spring 2010 as the No Labels Club, and worked to make the club relevant for traditional-age students. He founded the Finlandia Fiber Society, an informal social club that met Saturday afternoons in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
He has participated in seven ISAD fashion shows, not only designing, creating, and modeling his own garments, but acting as stage manager and taking care of lights and sound for the popular once- or twice-yearly public events.
He acted in two Finlandia fall plays: "The Bread of Niskavuori" in 2010 and "On Approval" in 2011. He sang with the student and faculty choir at 2010, 2011, and 2012 commencement ceremonies, and was part of the University Singers for one semester.
On behalf of Finlandia and the university's fiber arts program, Hinsch presented fiber arts demonstrations at two Heikinpäivä mid-winter celebrations and marched in two Parade of Nations parades. He volunteered for the summer 2011 Northern Wefts Weavers' Conference and the May 2010 Northern Great Lakes Synod Assembly, both hosted on the Finlandia campus.
Following high school in Fort Wayne, Ind., for three years Hinsch studied biology at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Ind. Then he began a career in information technology. In 2008, after 17 years in IT, he was laid off.
Shortly before becoming unemployed, on impulse Hinsch purchased a "Learn to Knit" kit. "I fell in love," he says of this introduction to the fiber arts. Since he was out of work and looking for a new career, he began to research bachelor degree programs in fiber arts.
While searching the Internet, Hinsch says Finlandia always appeared among the search results, but he thought the school must be in Finland. However, he didn't find what he was looking for on the websites of other colleges, so he took a look at Finlandia.
"It was the program I wanted," he says of Finlandia's bachelor of fine arts program in fiber art and fashion design. He was also happy to discover it was in Michigan!
Hinsch contacted Finlandia admissions, mailed his application in late October 2009, and received confirmation of his acceptance by phone December 5. The university's financial aid package covered pretty much everything, so Hinsch "packed up my house and drove up to Hancock, sight unseen." He arrived on campus January 9, 2010.
Among the financial aid awards that helped Hinsch complete his BFA are institutional scholarships, two student leadership scholarships, federal Pell grants and work-study, three Kuhlman Foundation grant awards, and the 2011-12 Philip and Loret Ruppe Community Service Scholarship.
This fall Hinsch will begin a two-year, eight-quarter graduate program at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., In pursuit of a master's of science degree in wood science and engineering, he'll be working with biologist and artist Sara Robinson, an assistant professor of wood science at Oregon State.
"The graduate program fell into my lap," Hinsch says, adding that he has long wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest.
Robinson, who recently completed a Ph.D. at Michigan Technological University, Houghton, is pursuing research to develop fungal pigments for painting vascular plants and textiles. She was looking for a fiber artist to assist her with this research and she contacted ISAD dean Denise Vandeville. Vandeville told Hinsch about the opportunity, and Hinsch and Robinson "hit it off" at their first meeting in December 2012.
Hinsch successfully completed the GRE test, was accepted for admission to Oregon State, and this March he completed a three week internship there, conducting literature research about the extraction of fungal pigments for use textile dyeing, and helping Robinson set up and organize her labs.
Hinsch explains that in the graduate program he'll explore the direct application of fungal pigment onto textiles in a process called spalting.
When asked about his career plans, Eric replies that he doesn't really think that way anymore, but he does have a dream.
"Ideally, I'd like to own a yarn shop and teach fiber classes there," he says, describing a two-story building with the shop on the ground floor and his home on the second. He'd also like to teach college classes part-time.
In May 2012 Hinsch was elected to the board of directors of the Copper Country Community Arts Center, Hancock, for which he is interim president of the Arts Center board through June 2013. He has maintained the Art Center's website since fall 2010. He notes that these opportunities have led to his greater involvement in the local arts community and has helped him learn how an art gallery is run.
Hinsch teaches classes at Fiber Whims, Houghton, and is a pet sitter/house sitter with six clients in the area.
Photo cutline: Eric Hinsch and Phyllis Fredendall