Posts tagged academics

Hi! Is there any bennington student here that is studying philosophy now? I would love to know if there is any course about logic, because I haven`t seen any in the curriculum.. Also, what are you focusing in our studies? I've seen a lot of aesthetics and environmental philosophy, and I would like to know what other fields are really strong at Bennington. Thank you so so much! Have a nice day! :) — Asked by carbonopautado

I’ve taken three philosophy courses in my time at Bennington: Global Ethics/Global Justice, Philosophy of Art and Language, and Philosophy and Biography of Wittgenstein. I wouldn’t call myself a philosophy student exactly, but my work in the social sciences has definitely been more on the theoretical side of things.

We covered logic in the first few weeks of Wittgenstein, but we really glossed over it so that we could deconstruct it. Paul’s courses are definitely your best bet, though — philosophical reasoning, theoretical ethics, global ethics, etc. While it isn’t the wikipedia page “logic,” his emphasis is definitely on constructing a logical argument and doing things with it rather than more whimsical ways of doing philosophy (I suspect Paul would much enjoy this characterization…). I would also look into pure math, if I were you; as well as some basic music theory. I know that sounds a little crazy, but once you get how Bach works it kind of makes sense.

But I also think it is important to realize that students here aren’t limited by the curriculum. You could easily focus on logic as part of your advanced work — our philosophers are well-versed enough to assist you in pretty much any interest. Before then, you could even do a tutorial with one of them.

Email me at aland@bennington.edu; I’d like to keep chatting so we can figure out what logic even means. I’ve got a paper I read in an education class I’d love for you to wrestle with.

Alan ‘15

On Outcomes

There is a soundbite lodged in my head of Sarah Palin saying, after a series of stutters, "it’s gotta be all about job creation." For whatever reason, before I found this on youtube, I could repeat it to you word for word with her exact inflection. Why? I have no idea. But it serves as the perfect example of something I’ve been thinking about lately: the turn toward outcomes in discussion. And then, what does it mean to choose a college not based on what will be promised to you, but based on what the college is?

What Sarah Palin is doing with words, here — and it isn’t just her, it is every talking head on the news — is framing things in terms of tomorrow instead of today. The normative way of making decisions today is based on outcomes: it is a sort of banal utilitarianism, that is so common, we don’t notice it. “Job creation” becomes an empty promise that distracts us from the present — and sometimes it’s easy to do some morally repugnant things today under the pretense of a better tomorrow. Every policy, every choice is actually a promise of a future rather than a choice in the present.

To give another example, facebook just asked me: are you sure you want to delete your account? And then provided photos of my friends, telling me individually that each one would miss me. But what about taking a stand based on principle, rather than consequence? In that moment, it is hard to feel like a good person while imagining all of your friends in tears. And yet, ethically, I disagree with a lot of what facebook is doing.

Yes, Alan, but “at the end of the day….” To which I respond, for a moment let’s suspend the end of the day and just think of, um, the morning? I’m not sure how to maintain this metaphor.

What does this mean for college? It is so tempting to frame this choice based on the promise of a job. And a house. And a car. And a family. Look: happiness! You can have that! Make this choice for THAT! But in a nation that designed itself as an experiment, maybe it makes sense to turn back to that mentality.

Maybe it is noble to go to a school based on values, based on principle and not the promise of an outcome. Maybe it is just the place you want to spend four years. Bennington, for example, might be the right place if you value freedom or don’t think education should be dictated to you. Education shouldn’t be a pill you swallow (or a textbook you have to digest) when you don’t want to. And maybe that actually is enough of a reason to come here.

It isn’t that we can’t answer questions about outcomes, or that we won’t. It’s just that sometimes I wonder why those are the only questions I’m ever answering.

Alan ‘15

Still a Mess

Remember me? Last week I was all like:

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Plan and the cold hard truth that it no longer reflects who I am and what I want my role to be during my time at Bennington

I’m Plan in shambles girl. But guess what friends? I re-wrote my entire plan essay and I could not be more pleased. It’s still a working document, still completely able to be changed, but now I have a piece that I’m really proud of, a piece that represents me and can help guide the rest of my time here.

The problem I was having with my original plan was that I was thinking about my education solely in terms of disciplines. Which discipline of the four that I study (theater, radio, literature and photography) deserves most of my attention? How can I hierarchically divide up my time when one subject does not stand out as more essential to my work than any other? I have come to the conclusion that, regardless of what discipline(s) I study, I want to focus on the expression of my lived experiences in order to create something with larger relevance to an audience. It’s what I do in admissions on tours and in emails, what I have been gravitating towards in my coursework, and, really, what I’ve been trying to do for a long time, only without the words to convey it.   

I previously gave you a chunk of Alan’s Plan, but now I’d like to share a bit of mine, from the very last paragraph of the essay: 

In the world’s lamest wrap up, I finished my original plan by writing that, “for the rest of my time at Bennington I want to work on incorporating the personal into my studies here.” I am now proposing that the personal is, in fact, the center of my studies. In plain china the nonfiction committee has been discussing what makes an effective ending. Endings are one of my many weaknesses as a writer. In my playwriting class, I could simply insert a stage direction about the fading lights and call it a day. But in this particular case, I am okay with not being able to concoct the perfect ending. I don’t want to manufacture a false sense of closure, for truly, I am still a mess. The Plan Process has no real ending; when I leave Bennington I will still be pursuing my own lines of inquiry. So I will leave this essay, just like my education, unfinished.  

Sincerely,

Emily ‘16

Hi! I'm considering Bennington, but I'm wondering how it is viewed from an outsiders' perspective, like its reputation? Of course, I love it, so I know that the "hippie" stereotypes are not true, but what do employers think of it? Also, what would you say the benefits are of going to a non-traditional school? I don't feel like I'd be missing out on much, but still, something is holding me back. Thanks! — Asked by Anonymous

 Depends. Do you want to have the type of job where you get hired because your interviewer was like “oh d*mn you went to harvward here’s a job”? Because that probably wouldn’t happen with a Bennington degree (I dunno how often that happens at all these days…) No one will see that you went to Bennington, though, and not hire you because of that.

You’re just going to have to learn how to advocate for yourself and your skills, which is definitely something most Bennington students learn how to do through things like the Plan Process and Field Work Term. We’re like, self-advocacy pros. Having to constantly think about and back up the hows and whys of you’re studying what you’re studying will do that to a person. Plus, after four Field Work Terms, you get pretty good at applying and interviewing for jobs.

I think it’s safe to say that when it comes down to it, who you are is more important than where you went to school.

it’s still not the 80’s, pal!

image

kagan16

EDIT: look at this thing i yoinked from the FWT office! 

image

(tbh i didn’t yoink it they gave it to me)

Weekly Emotional Crisis

Dear Readers,

I have a confession to make: I do not have it all together.

Sure, I’ve been coordinating my outfits expertly this term and have been flossing my teeth pretty regularly but my confession stands firm. Because recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Plan and the cold hard truth that it no longer reflects who I am and what I want my role to be during my time at Bennington.

Basically, I don’t know what I am studying.

While Alan and I discussed how my Plan is in shambles, he read me this excerpt from his:

“The intellectual community, I believe, has been chasing its own tail just as I have, and requires other methods outside of strictly defined academic documents to find satisfying truths within. A good script contains many truths and its malleability is celebrated as different directors reappropriate it. We find solace within a play’s catharsis by experiencing pain so profound it transcends the words it was made of.”

I friggin’ love this quote. It gives me hope. It contains self-reflection and realization and is just plain beautiful.

A Plan in shambles is a fine place to be here at Bennington. I’m not worried (well, maybe I am a little bit…) because my dissatisfaction with my Plan means that I am critically thinking about making the most of my education. I am not following a path that I don’t believe is best for me, even if it’s a path I previously created for myself.

I have learned many things here: how to operate a camera, the art of essay writing, the history of theater, just to name a few. However, these things are taught everywhere. The most important skills that I have learned from Bennington are to think, re-think, reflect, and take action. Not because someone else is requiring that from me, but because I demand it of myself.

I couldn’t have learned that anywhere else. 

All the best,

Emily ‘16

email me if you want to talk about being lost: emilyg@bennington.edu

If anyone here is in the art program... how rigorous would you say the art classes are/do you feel like you learned a lot from them? — Asked by Anonymous

hello i am an arty

How hard are you willing to work? Art courses (actually, most courses at Bennington) tend to be as intense as you make them, especially with more labor-intensive stuff like ceramics or printmaking or animation. There probably isn’t much in terms of just one-off, no-work classes, but I guess you could slide through a drawing class, say, doing the bare minimum and maybe get a marginal pass, but what’s the point of that? 

Some of the courses I’ve learned the most from have also been the most intense and, at times, frustrating, both in assignments and critiques. I’ve worked for hours on certain assignments just to get (helpfully) torn apart in class critiques. Usually, a few hours later (or a few weeks later if i got really mad!!) I’d realize just how much more helpful my getting torn apart was. 

So yeah, as with any class here, if you’re willing to work and you’re open to critique, art classes can be immensely helpful. Or, if you’re just taking a course because you’re curious about, I dunno, how to silkscreen, you could have a good time and learn how to do the thing without it being the most intense course you’re taking that term.

U Pick!

kagan16

Does Bennington accept CLEP scores for college credits? or if I have a 700+ score in SAT chemistry or math level II, will I get any kind of credits or exemptions? Thanks in advance!!! — Asked by Anonymous

Hello!

Unfortunately no, we do not accept CLEP or SAT scores as college credits. We do accept some AP scores, but this will have to get discussed and approved by someone in the Dean’s Office. Here is a link to our complete credit transfer policy.

Best!

Chloe ‘16

Is there Journalism at Bennington? — Asked by Anonymous

Class-wise, not really. There aren’t any straight up journalism courses here, but a lot of courses in CAPA, Literature, Political Science, Photography, Stats, etc., teach things relevant to (photo)journalism. There’s also the BFP, a student-run paper that reports on campus stuff and events in town. 

Also! here’s a secret: you can basically do whatever you want for FWT. You want to work with a journalist? Fine! or with a news agency or site of some sort? Okay! Are you Jason Moon ‘13 and did you work with NPR for a FWT? Probably not but he did do that!

Anyways my point is that there’s not an explicit journalism TRACK here, but if you’re an active thinker you probably could study journalism at Bennington. People have done it in the past. People are doing it right now. 

you can do it too~

kagan16

What kind of music ensembles are at Bennington? I'm used to being part of an orchestral group, like wind ensemble and orchestra (I'm a percussionist). Are those kinds of groups offered? Also, do you guys have a radio station? Thanks! — Asked by Anonymous

In terms of orchestral stuff, a good go-to thing is Sage City Symphony, a local full-size symphony that students can participate in. Other than that, there’s usually a brass ensemble, jazz ensemble stuff, but it looks a little different every term. If you’re curious, check out the curriculum’s ensemble tag for fall and spring term courses.

As for radio, we don’t really have a station in the sense of something with a DJ that you’d tune into, but the Bennington Radio Project is a student group that’s focused on generating content in the form of NPR-esque podcasts. You can check them out here, here and here. Glennis is in charge of that. She’s lost in the woods right now but email her at glennish@bennington.edu if you want to know more and if she finds her way back she’ll be able to fill you in.

beep boop 

kagan16

Hey! Is there anyone who has participated in the AVIC Semester Exchange that could share a bit of their experience? :) Thanks ! — Asked by Anonymous

So we’ve actually not had any students in recent memory who’ve participated in the AVIC program. So… sorry about that. If you want a more general idea of how that works here, though, I’d email Kendra Ericson, who’s in charge of Study Abroad and AVIC stuff at kericson@bennington.edu

kagan16

Bennington is really small, only 688 people, so how does that effect you guys? Also, what are the people like at Bennington, what is its reputation? — Asked by Anonymous

The people are awesome, which is why it doesn’t matter that there are only around 700 of us. That was very direct of me, but I think it is true. I find the people here to be dynamic and unexpected if that makes any sense. By unexpected, I guess I mean always surprising and not able to fit into stereotypes. Like someone who studies both theater and conflict in the Middle East (~**~shout out to Tenara!!~**~). Next thing you know she’s speaking Hebrew fluently and you’re like I thought you were from Ohio and then she’s like “Born in Israel, SUCKER!” Okay, I got a little carried away. You think you have them pegged from seeing them in one classroom (“oh you’re THAT type of student”) and then they shock you in another, by not only being an amazing dancer, but also a brilliant physicist.

The fact that you are meeting physicists in dance, or drama students in poli sci makes the school huge because. While it seems everyone’s face is familiar, you’re always seeing new people, even in familiar places.

Alan ‘15

I'm having a real hard time finding the list of majors on the website, so I wanted to know if there was a film program? I want to be a director — Asked by noirpineapple

Yes you can study film here. We have a range of video classes. We also have directing classes if you’re interested in working in the theater.

For the record: Go to the Bennington homepage. Click “Academics” at the bottom of the page. “Areas of study and curriculum” is the second option down. Click it. There you have a list of all the areas of study available.

http://www.bennington.edu/Academics/AreasStudy

We do not have majors, each student crafts their own educational plan, which may be why you were confused.

-Eliana ‘15

What is your architecture program like? also other design classes? do you ever have fashion design classes? — Asked by Anonymous

image

so sayeth Architect Carlos ‘14.

As far as fashion design goes, some students choose to study that mainly through costume design. Courses on fashion design itself are pretty few and far between, but with a Plan that combines, say, costume design, art history, social science (because hey who doesn’t need that?) and maybe some independent work, fashion design is definitely manageable here.

kagan16

What you haven’t asked us (or any college) that you should.

Having done tours for a few years, I’ve found the same questions come up again and again; regardless of where you are from. Some of them are useful, some aren’t. Here are the questions I wish I asked when I was visiting schools. In turn, I hope you ask me them on tour or on the tumblr. More broadly, I hope it helps on any tour and helps you make this tough decision.

1. “Do the students here love to learn?”

This is crucial, to me anyway. Are you going to a college where people geek out about their studies 100% of the time, or, on the other side of the spectrum, it is an afterthought to partying. You could frame this in terms of workload or free time, but I think it kind of sidesteps the issue. What you really want to know is if students place their work first in their lives, and if they do so willingly or because the environment demands it.

2. “How is mental wellness facilitated on campus?”

College is intense. The transition from home life to campus life can be stressful, as can starting college level courses. But mental wellness can be an issue beyond one year. You want to know how the campus thinks about these issues. The answer might be therapy, or study breaks or even a thoughtfully designed housing model (feng shui?) that prevents it from being an issue. But you want to know this, because it will impact your well-being for four years. If you wanted to go a step further, ask how emotional wellness is taught, learned and encouraged — that, too (not just a paycheck) is part of a fulfilling life.

3. “What structures bring the student’s perspective into administrative decision making?”

Policy choices by the administration will affect you. Sometimes, you actually aren’t considered in them as a student. Be cynical, especially if the school in question seems more like a business than a college. How are students considered?

4. “What does your work consist of? How are you evaluated?”

Do most classes have exams or use projects? You probably don’t want to take a sculpture class that culminates with an exam. Not all colleges use letter grades, some use narrative evaluations. But also, what is the quality of feedback on individual assignments?

5. “What is your favorite and least favorite class?”

It might feel a bit awkward to ask this in a large group tour, but I think that’s exactly why you should. Asking the tour guide something that is totally subjective can give insight into their perspective, as well as a candid description of what courses are like.

6. “Are the faculty passionate about teaching?”

The school may have exceptional faculty, they may be accessible, but if they don’t love to teach it won’t make much of a difference. In my opinion, that’s because you need faculty that will bend over backwards for you and go out of their way to think of things you’d never think of and address concerns you didn’t even know you had.

Alan ‘15

Can you guys explain the Plan Process and exactly what that entails? You build your own curriculum and write a paper on it? Do you just say what kind of classes you'll be taking? Thanks. — Asked by Anonymous

Very basically, with the Plan you’re thinking and writing and talking about what exactly you want to do at Bennington. You may be studying physics and literature, but what about those things interests you? Are there any intersections between the two? Maybe you want to get educated in physics so that your science fiction writing can have really solid scientific backing (I don’t know.) Also, and sometimes more importantly, how do you plan on studying these things, through classes, FWTs, outside research, etc. That’s where building and justifying your own curriculum comes in, as well as potential FWTs, maybe even study abroad. 

If you’re still curious, here’s a quick overview of the Plan Process year by year.

kagan16