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Franklin and Marshall College

Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA (visited 1/25/12)

Occasionally, I find a college that makes me want a “do-over.” This is one of them. The campus has a quintessential college feel to it: quads, lots of brick buildings, statues of the college namesakes. It’s absolutely gorgeous! There is a lot of flexibility in academic programs and an expectation that students will “step up to the plate” and take charge of their learning. Students tend to be creative, curious, outgoing, engaged, and socially-minded.

There are two main quads on campus – the academic and the residential. The residential halls are long, 3-4 story buildings that line the residential quad. The admissions rep, a graduate of the college, describes them as “Harry Potteresque.” The dorms house all levels of students; first-years get placed into houses, a bit by luck-of-the-draw, and they generally stay in the same dorm all 4 years. It is possible to switch residence halls in future years, but apparently this is not common. First-year-seminar cohorts are placed into a dorm together so the class that incoming students sign up for will help determine where they live. Each dorm has a large common room, and classes are sometimes held there. Dons and Prefects live in each building, and each house also has a House Government so there are a lot of leadership opportunities (these opps are definitely available in other parts of campus, too). 98% of students live on campus. It really is a community. People I saw around campus were engaged with their studies and with each other – they were not isolating themselves in order to do well in classes. They seemed to be taking full advantage of the things going on around campus.

On the main street, there are many houses which hold different programs on campus. I got to tour the Hillel House and the Writing House. Both were being widely used, even around 5pm. A writing seminar wrapped up just before I went into the building; walking by it earlier, I could see the students in the front room sitting on couches and comfortable chairs, actively engaging in discussion.

Classes are all small; there is no hiding in the back of a classroom and passively getting an education here. In addition to being able to major in writing (within the English department, students choose either the literature or writing track), there are other fairly unusual majors for a schools this size (about 2,400 students): there are several majors in non-European languages (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian), Astronomy, Judaic Studies (there is a high percentage of Jewish students on campus), Scientific and Philosophical Studies of the Mind (combining things like psych, philosophy, biology, and computer science), and a combined Theater, Music, and Dance department. Their Performing Arts center is fairly new, and within that major, students can design a program that interests them. If someone wants to major in theater tech, it can be done.

(c) 2012

Pennsylvania College of Art and Design

Pennsylvania College of Art and Design (visited 11/18/14)

PCAD Lobby

PCAD Lobby

Gallery Space

Gallery Space

PCAD is housed in a large 5-story building (really 2 connected buildings) in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. All 300 undergraduates complete a BFA degree in one of five majors: Digital Media, Fine Arts, Illustration, Photography, and Graphic Design. Two-third of their classes will be in their major. The rest are distribution requirements and electives. Business classes are part of their non-studio requirements, and all students complete an internship the summer before their senior year. All students complete a foundation year after which they declare their major. Classes are pretty much set that first year, but students interested in photography can replace Drawing 2 with Black&White photography.

Some of the work done for Broadway Theater

Some of the work done for Broadway Theater

Senior Studio spaces

Senior Studio spaces

Professors are all active in the industry giving students real-life information and contacts. They can complete lots of client-based projects in classes. For example, every year, students complete designs for Broadway Theater in town which are used in the company’s playbills and promotional materials. Students must have a Mac laptop, although there are plenty of desktops around campus, as well. The library is small, but students have complete access to the Franklin and Marshall library, less than a mile away.

Printmaking lab

Printmaking lab

Digital class

Digital class

The nice things about Lancaster is that it’s a small city of 60,00 residents. “It’s a good for those students who aren’t quite ready to take on NY or Chicago,” said the admissions rep, “but it still gives them lots of connections with the art community to exhibit.” The school brings in lots of speakers and visiting artists who show work and teach workshops and classes. All seniors get their own space that mimics professional space in a workplace. I talked briefly to one senior who said her favorite thing about PCAD was her space! She’s looking at Naropa University for grad school to go into therapy. The school can boast a 97% placement rate for their graduates. The Fine Arts majors are more likely to continue to graduate school, but the others tend to get jobs quickly.

Student artwork which is displayed all through the hallways

Student artwork which is displayed all through the hallways

3-D design class

3-D design class

Housing is an issue: there are no dorms. There are some school-run furnished lofts about 2 blocks away, but there are only spots for 26 students. “I recommend that they apply early if they’re interested in this.” Other apartments are available through landlords, and the housing office helps connect students to these places. They are not furnished, but they’re all within 5 blocks of campus. There’s also no food service on campus (other than vending machines), but there are a lot of grocery stores and food places around. Central Market (like a large farmer’s market) is close, but it’s only open on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.

© 2014

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