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Better than art school

| Monday, November 10, 2014

I have yet to write a paper this semester, a suspect statement for someone who has justified her complete lack of a social life with the ultimate excuse: thesis. My coursework this semester consists entirely of “making,” which is both an incredibly freeing and extremely frustrating framework. I’ve oscillated a bit between majors and departments while at Notre Dame, but I finally found my place within the design program. I’ve had semesters entirely based on test taking, others incredibly heavy with essays and now I’m finishing off my degree with a schedule purely composed of studio classes. And it’s exhausting. If I’ve learned anything from this semester, it’s that I am so happy I didn’t go to art school.

Notre Dame is known for football, for it’s business school, for it’s Catholic stance. It’s certainly not known for design. We have a good program, but a design education at Notre Dame just doesn’t stand up to a degree program like Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) or Rhode Island School of Design (RISD.) They pump out super stars with robust portfolios that snag coveted positions at the industry’s top firms at the snap of their fingers (Yes, it’s really that easy to find a job). Notre Dame graduates place well, but it takes us one or two years to catch up to the performance level of our art-school-educated peers. They simply do more design work than us, and like anything else, skills improve with practice.

The promise, however, is that a couple years after that, us liberal arts graduates end up directing the scene. The reasoning behind that is that we are taught to think differently; we are required to take classes across disciplines and expose ourselves to concepts and topics outside of our direct area of interest. I didn’t realize how important that was until I stopped taking general electives. Forcing myself to be equally inspired and creative across five studio classes is draining, and consequently, I don’t think I’m making my best work. I miss the ability to break away into different modes of thinking; I need cross-pollination of thought.

If I went to art school, I would have a better portfolio. I’d also be two steps closer to full-on crazy. Balance is incredibly important. Love your major, but don’t restrict yourself to a single field in college. This is the time to explore, and it’s incredibly easy to get burnt out in the pursuit of passion.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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