Bennington does not have majors in the “traditional” sense of majors. There is not a specific set of classes required to graduate with a certain major. You can still study your area of study with the depth and breadth of a “major”, but we don’t call them majors. We want to avoid confusion with what the Plan Process (Bennington’s answer to the major) really is.
Essentially, the Plan Process is the process of you finding out what you want to study and how you want to study it. There is no set of courses required to graduate with a Plan in Literature- so it’s open to the student how they want to study literature. You design the curriculum needed for what you want to study. Obviously, there is guidance throughout the process. Your professors are going to make sure you’re learning what you need to achieve that breadth and depth.
~ Maddy ‘16
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.
We do not have majors, each student crafts their own educational plan, which may be why you were confused.
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.
While we talk a lot about the Plan Process on the blog, we just wanted to clear up what Bennington “requires” of our students.
In addition to successfully completing the Plan Process, Bennington students are required to earn at least 128 credits, and to complete four Field Work Terms (we talk about that on the blog a lot too.)
In order to allow students to successfully fulfill the intense academic discovery that comes along with the Plan, we don’t have any restrictions or requirements on what classes a student can and can’t take. The open curriculum is there to facilitate the needs of your personal academic narrative and to allow you the freedom to explore, to stumble upon new passions, to find connections between your work, and to make mistakes and learn from them. This allows students the freedom to pursue a plan process with rigor and merit, that successfully articulates your academic goals and how you’re going to reach them, that conveys who you are and how you think, what you’re doing with your time here, and where you’re headed. This all happens through a series of opportunities for reflection and evaluation which take the form of plan essays, plan meetings, junior reviews, senior work, etc. that are facilitated by the faculty and deans office.
While this process is seemingly simple on paper, it’s kind of revolutionary in its origins, and it asks a lot of every Bennington student. We don’t just ask you to do well in your classes, we require that can you explain why you’re taking them, why here, why now. And yes, all those “whys” can be taxing, but they make certain that your time here is spent wisely, ensuring that you receive a holistically grounded education with which you can enter the world equipped to share all you have to offer and prepared to absorb what the world has to offer you.
- Sarah ‘15
I’ll tell you as a graduating senior with a job that our Plan Process actually helps rather than hinders. Think about any job that you might want to work- maybe it’s a position at a newspaper or magazine, or maybe it’s an administrative role at a hospital. Then ask what skills you might need. Without a doubt, you need more skills than just ones you would learn in literature classes or classes on management or administration alone.
What I want to highlight in this is that a single job will incorporate numerous areas of interest or passion beyond one single major. I have studied Environmental Studies, using anthropology and natural sciences to help me understand the full picture of growing food for an increasing global population. Additionally, I study Italian. Throughout my time here, I have taken visual arts and art history courses, and my job after Bennington is at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, where I will be an assistant to artists in residence. This job requires near fluency in Italian, along with experience with the arts, both of which I learned at Bennington.
Finally, I’ll add that our 7-week Field Work Term period is the ideal time to test out potential jobs and integrate those experiences into your education at Bennington. You may work at an organization and realize that you don’t want to work a certain type of job, or that you do, and then you have that experience on your resume when you leave Bennington. Those 3-4 internships are also great places to look for a job when you graduate.
The last thing I will say is that when you have a conversation with a potential employer, I think it is significantly more interesting (for both parties) to talk about your studies (which are your passions) than a single major you pursued.
-Kate D. ‘14
For your first Field Work Term, your choice of location does not have to be based on your course of study, mainly because you will probably not yet have a strict direction to your work (not that you ever really do……. “just kidding”). However, whatever you intuitively choose will still probably weasel its way into your future studies somehow, just based on the fact that you chose it and will learn about yourself and your interests in the process.
In terms of your FWTs post-first-year, they do have to be somehow related to your Plan, but there are ways of finding connections between an organization and your studies that don’t have to be super direct. Also, because you design your Plan based on your personal interests, it doesn’t really feels limiting to have to choose something that connects to your Plan. ALSO your FWTs often shape your Plan as much as your Plan shapes your FWTs.
Hello Good Question-er!
There are no required courses that are mandated for every student to take. The only time you would be required to take a class is when trying to get into an upper-level course. In this case, there may be 1 or 2 requirements for you to be able to get enrolled in said course.
The writing of the academic Plan is entirely up to the student. However, every student has an advisor with whom they are in conversation about their plan. In addition, after writing your plan, you’ll be assigned a plan committee. This is made up of 2-4 teachers who teach classes in fields that are relevant to you. You will have a meeting with this committee soon after writing your plan, in which you will discuss you plan with your panel. They’ll ask you questions about it, make suggestions about it, and either pass or deny it. If it is denied, you’ll just have to make some changes to its structure and then you’ll keep meeting until it’s passed. So yes, students are given independence in determining their educational plans, but they still must defend it to faculty in order to pursue it. Plan plans plan plan planning plans plan planned plan planning on having my plan meeting tomorrow at 9am WHEEEE!!
There are academic support services available, depending on your needs. There are writing tutors to help you with essays and written work, and if you go to the academic services office they can most likely set you up with someone to help you out. In addition, teachers here like to make themselves available for clarifications and conversations, and are open to knowing their students and giving them personalized help.
Hope that answers yr questions!
As I’ve been thinking about the Plan process and my Plan in particular recently, I’ve come to some realizations that I think should be said. Your Plan is like Hamlet. We, as the audience, aren’t compelled by Hamlet as a character simply because of his actions; rather, we are compelled by Hamlet because of his motivations and justifications for his actions. Your Plan is much the same. A mere list of courses and how you felt about them is a mere window dressing for what’s really at the center of it all: your motivations. Your “to be or not to be” is what makes one Plan unique and interesting, not the mere fact that you want to study VA or Biology or Anthropology. In the beginning of Bennington’s existence, students were required to justify their continued attendance at Bennington after their second year, if they failed to do so, they were not allowed to return to the College. While this rule may not be in place anymore, its’ essence lives on in the Plan Process. Your justification is what matters. Everything else is secondary.
Hey! We have neither minors nor majors. Instead, we have the plan process. The plan process is just one of the many academic structures we have in place to facilitate your ability to study whatever holds your interest or ignites your passion.
Here are the things I know about chemical engineering: it is much more common for students to study chemical engineering in grad school than in undergrad. Pretty much all undergraduate chemical engineering programs in the United States are at engineering schools and offer a Bachelor of Science degree. Students at Bennington College have studied chemical engineering in the past.
Here are the things I know about sciences at Bennington: science here is not about textbook learning or rote memorization. Most science courses have open-ended final projects that give students the experience of designing their own research projects and the ability to make their courses very specifically applicable to the research that they are personally interested in doing. In some ways, the science programs at Bennington more closely resemble grad school programs. Students are asked for the same intellectual curiosity, scientific creativity, and research-based rigor that are required of professionals in the scientific community.
Here are the things I know about Bennington College: you make your own path here. All students are asked to figure out what it is they want to explore and how they’re going to go about accomplishing that - that’s the plan process. To that end, the college grants students the resources of a talented faculty, broad course offerings, amazing facilities, and a huge amount of individual attention and advising. If you want to study chemical engineering here, you can do that. If you want to study the intersection and interplay between chemical engineering and creative writing, and the specific shared qualities that make the two subjects compelling for you, you can do that, too. You can take some of the courses that already exist, or you can work with individual faculty members to develop a tutorial. We have a commitment to the policy that all our teachers be accomplished, working professionals in their fields, so that means you’ll be exposed to a ton of research opportunities. We also have FWT (Field Work Term), a great opportunity to apply the learning you’re doing in the classroom to the real world, learn more about the professional world of science, and figure out what it is you might want to do once you leave this place (in the distant future).
TL;DR: yeah you can do it, you can do whatever you want here as long as we have the resources you need and you put the work in.
My possibly unrelated, rambling personal feelings? If you really love any school, don’t compromise just because you have a preconceived idea of what you want to study, especially if it’s something you can do after college in graduate school. I have so many friends who don’t really love the college they go to, and, I dunno, that just seems like a bad situation to be in. I think that there is a great variety of decisions in our lives that are decided solely by logistics, economics, and pure pragmatism, and this should not be one of them.
Its your lucky day. Because of Bennington’s unique plan process you can (actually, you must) completely design your own program. You could easily combine literature and anthropology, acting and politics or music and computer science. The beauty of it is they won’t even stay two separate things (necessarily) — you could study anthroture or literpology. Why would you go to a school that won’t let you study what you’re passionate about?
Bennington actually doesn’t use majors, but instead students design their own academic trajectory with the constructive criticism of faculty. The one-sentence-long version is confusing and verbose. You can read the longer rendition here. Regardless, the reason we are often listed on these types of thing (I suspect) is because we offer classes in those areas and have faculty specializing in topics relevant to things like zoology. Check out Betsy’s classes (Animal Social Behavior, Comparative Animal Physiology, and Diversity of Coral Reef Animals…for instance) and David’s (How Do Animal’s Learn and Remember? or Animal Vision). There’s a bunch of stuff that would be relevant to your interests…I’d recommend you browse our past course offerings and read some descriptions here.
I found Bennington because Collegeboard included playwriting among Bennington’s majors (so I’m glad they say it that way). I’ve been able to make it happen here, although it is a bit more complicated than that website might make it appear.
So instead of a typical major/minor system Bennington allows students to design their own course of study. The idea behind this educational approach, called the Plan Process, is that your education is much more enriching, valuable, meaningful, and personal when you design it. This model allows you to pull from a variety of disciplines and puts your passions, inquiries, and interests at the center of your education. It’s kind of complicated so please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com for more details.
As for environmental science you can absolutely study that here! Check out all the classes tagged ‘environment’ in the Fall 2013 curriculum.
Bennington doesn’t offer majors, much less double ones. Because of the ‘plan process’, each student develops their own unique program, as it were, specific to his or her own interests. A lot of times these are questions that can be explored through multiple disciplines; its like looking at the same thing through two different vantage points. Other students choose to do something that might be more similar to a ‘double major’ — they right their plan in two different disciplines and choose to keep them separate. If you are worried that you won’t be able to explore all your interests, don’t be. The freedom we have here, in my experience, prevents us from getting too boxed in. (The best way to understand the plan is through examples — check these out)
Bennington approaches education from a different foundation than what you’d typically find in a major/minor system. Here’s a great explanation of Bennington’s divergence from that system.
After checking in with a resident Anthropology professor here, the social science skills you acquire at Bennington could be utilized through a couple different dimensions. Firstly, studying social science hones your critical thinking skills, which are especially relevant to life in a post modern world. More concretely, you could pursue a career in the NGO/non-profit sector, civil society, international relations, or academia among other things. Typically after getting a BA social science students go onto grad school though many work for a couple years beforehand.
-Michael and Selina ‘15