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Rhode Island School of Design (Take 2)

 

RISD (visited 5/2/19 — click HERE for the pictures and notes from my visit on 3/21/14)

RISD sculptureThis was my second visit to RISD. This visit was with a large group of counselors on tour of all the RI schools; several years ago I visited (with another counselor) when we participated in the regular info session and tour offered to families. It was like visiting an entirely different campus, and not because they had done massive renovations. They just chose to highlight/showcase totally different things. This time, we saw much more of the “downtown” part of campus along the river and we got to go into some of the studios and other spaces that we did not see on the tour – but didn’t go up the hill to see the dorm quad or other pretty areas on campus (check out the blog post from 2014 to see that stuff).  I’m very glad to have gotten both perspectives because I feel like I have a more complete picture of what the campus, the education, and the students are like.

RISD river walk 2

RISD flags along the river with some of the college buildings alongside.

All first-year students admitted to RISD take Experimental and Foundation Studies which includes two semesters each of Drawing (very traditional, 2D work), Spatial Dynamics (3D), Design, and Theory & History of Art & Design. They take a humanities class each semester (usually a literature seminar and another of their choice). During Wintersession, they choose a non-major studio elective. One student chose Digital Embroidery,

RISD studio 1

One of the “still life labs” with a huge array of specimens for students to use during their Studio classes. 

Student declare a major in February of their Foundation year. Students on the panel very much liked the program, and it was split about 50-50 for those who stuck with their original plan and those who decided to change their mind about the major during the year. They all agree that it’s an intensely rigorous first year, but RIDS boasts an impressive 93% retention rate which is not surprising given the level of commitment – academic and artistic – shown by those who are offered admission.

RISD bio studio 2

A bio-life lab for students to draw from nature – and the lamps are made by students!

Last year, RISD admitted 19% of the 4750 applicants; they are bringing in 480 students this year, one of the largest classes. Admitted students averaged 670 per section on the SAT or a 30 on the ACT. During admission, they recalculate GPA looking at core classes from the last 2 full years. They do NOT look at grades in their art classes – but instead evaluate the portfolio. They are more interested in the portfolio itself to look at the talent, effort, and creativity. The student sitting with us at breakfast said that talent alone is not the end-all. “Even if your technical work isn’t quite there yet but you’re putting in the work and the effort, the professors recognize that and see that your technical skills will get there.”

RISD Sculpture areaStudents who would like some feedback before the admission process can use http://www.aicad.slideroom.com where they can upload up to 5 images and get feedback from up to 10 people for free.

I love the Dual Degree program that’s offered jointly with Brown. Students must apply and be admitted to both schools; RISD releases decisions first and then will send the list to Brown where it goes to committee. Last year, they received 730 apps for the program and admitted 19 to yield a cohort of 15. Everyone evaluated for that program must be admitted to both schools. They live on the RISD campus for the 1st year, at Brown for the 2nd year, and then can choose for the 3rd and 4th.

RISD downtown bldgsRegardless of whether or not they’re in the joint program, students can cross-register at Brown. (There’s also a lot of club cross-over with Brown, and they can join some of the sports teams there). They can take classes at Brown as long as it fits into the schedule and gets okayed by the registrar. Despite the fact that RISD grants only BFA degrees (with the exception of the BArch degree), they also teach students the business aspect of art (legalities of copyrights, contracts, etc) and they offer the Liberal Arts through Literary Arts and Studies, History/Philosophy/Social Sciences classes, electives, and concentrations. One of the student panelists said that she came here because there was more flexibility within the majors – “I was pretty much married to the illustration major, but I got to customize it.” Another student said that she was surprised at how interdisciplinary it is and how things can cross over. She wants to go into publishing and has to deal with typeface, so she’s taken a lot of graphic design classes. Students said that they like the flexibility to try classes in other majors like Furniture, Apparel, or Industrial Design, Interior Architecture, or Film/Animation/Video in addition to more of the fine arts type of majors.

RISD library interior

The library which takes up the first two floors of this building also has a cafe, and the top floors are a dorm.

“It’s great to be in a community of people who are so interested in the same things, who are willing to help out. We’re not just doing art in class. A lot of people get overwhelmed by the workload, but you aren’t alone in that. You’re in the same group for the first semester, another for 2nd semester. You build a lot of relationships. You know people all over campus.” Students get card access to all buildings so they can (and do) work at all hours. “Campus safety will often check in if they see lights on,” said our tour guide.

RISD 1In terms of finances, RISD does not offer merit scholarships. They do offer need-based scholarships and grants which they keep in line with the cost of attendance – if the COA goes up, the scholarship goes up by the same percentage. They are also reducing hidden costs (deposits, fees, etc.). “It’s not fair to students to get hit with deposits for keys or to be told ‘surprise, you have to pay a fee up front for supplies.’ Families have to be able to plan, and if they’ve crunch numbers and tightened their belts to make this a reality for the students, they may not have the other additional money at the beginning of the semester.” Students in the Architecture program can carry their financial aid into their 5th year since that is a 5-year program.

© 2019

University of Rhode Island (Take 2)

University of Rhode Island (visited 4/30/19 … Click HERE to see pictures and notes from my previous visit on 3/21/14)

URI 5One of the Producers on the Ellen Show is a URI alum – so many of URI’s Film & Media majors can intern on Ellen.

“The sense of place here is tremendous. Rhode Island itself is stunning. The state of Rhode Island only has about 10,000 high school graduates each year. What that means for us is that we have a flagship university but a diversity of enrollment. About half of our students come from outside RI,” said one of the admissions rep.

URI 3“We like our size [they have about 14,500 undergraduates]. It allows us to keep resources accessible.” They have also hired 346 new faculty in the past 6 years. This enables them to offer incredible majors and programs, many of which are interdisciplinary. In fact, one of their Core requirements is a Grand Challenge Course, an interdisciplinary class that looks at a modern issue or problem that needs to be solve like coastal resilience, mental health, diversity and inclusion, etc.

I spent about 15 minutes talking to a Classical Studies student who is actually double majoring and double minoring. She said that the advising here is wonderful, and they help her get in everything she needs – and she’s on track to graduate in 4 years. The department is small so she gets a lot of individual time, but she loves all her department and loves that URI allows her to explore all her interests instead of having to choose.

URI 6Since I visited URI several years ago, the university has put over $900 million into their infrastructure. One of the most obvious changes is that the Engineering building is being renovated. They offer a wide array of engineering options including Ocean, Industrial & Systems, Biomedical, a Polymer certificate within Chemical, and their International Engineering Program in which students earn 2 degrees within 5 years: a BS in engineering and a BA in a language (French, Spanish, German, Italian, or Chinese )

URI mascot

The mascot in front of the new welcome center. 

The International Degree programs are impressive. The Chinese Language Flagship Program allows students to earn 2 degrees in 5 years – a BA in Chinese and another degree in the major of their choice. They have three more programs similar to the Engineering option: International Business, International Computer Science, and International Studies and Diplomacy.

Not surprisingly, URI capitalizes on their location near the water with many of their academic offerings, including the Ocean Engineering (We had to ask a rep what that was since we had no idea. I really wish they had spent more of their time emphasizing more of their unusual majors while the Counselors were there on campus). Other majors include Aquaculture and Fisheries Science, Physics and Physical Oceanography, Geology and Geological Oceanography, Marine Affairs, and Marine Biology. They also do a great job with natural resource management and similar majors like Animal Science and Technology, Plant Science, and Environmental and Natural Resource Economics.

UIR coloring

Stress relief coloring options!

Hands-on majors are also strong, including Landscape Architecture, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Medical Lab Science, Textile Marketing and the Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design. Nursing is hugely competitive with a limited number of spots available. Students have to complete the pre-requisites and then apply for a spot in the program. Seats are not guaranteed, so this might not be the best option for students who are sold on nursing.

URI 1A new 500-bed apartment complex will open next year. This will take away some of the parking spots, so they’ll stop allowing freshmen to have cars on campus. They do offer shuttles around campus. Students can also move off campus in the last two years. Many of them can rent beach houses and commute to school since owners often rent these from Labor Day to Memorial Day. The area is very easy to get around, including the Amtrak station that’s a mile away and a public bus that runs to the Providence Airport.

© 2019

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