Left to right: George Mahoney, Harper Comstock, and Karen Wirth
Left to right: George Mahoney, Harper Comstock, and Karen Wirth

October 15, 2018

Dear MCAD Community,

Drawing? Designing? Photographing? With MCAD's fourteen undergraduate majors and four minors, how does a student decide what to do, what major to be? What does a program look like for the next four years, and then for a lifetime after college?

Some students enter MCAD with a sure direction; others need to immerse themselves in a range of experiences to set their goals. The curriculum is designed to work for both kinds of students, and faculty guide them through their paths. The first-year foundation program covers drawing, 2D and 3D design, and media arts, as well as art history and English courses. Students try out new materials and techniques that spark new creative impulses. Those classes may sway their decision by discovering a better fit, or they might combine seemingly disparate objectives, like an animator who, two years later, wants to make dimensional models for an animated film.

Every fall the college holds a Major/Minor Fair for undergraduates. Department chairs, faculty, and representative students set up shop in the College Center to answer questions, explain their programs, and provide first-hand experience about what it's like to major in that area. Harper Comstock, a senior in furniture design, represented her major along with Associate Professor George Mahoney. Harper had great 2D art experiences while in high school and came into MCAD thinking that was going to be her major. The very first semester, she found herself in the class Foundation: 3D, cutting wood, casting bronze, welding steel, and printing 3D models. This wasn’t a natural fit. For many students who have not had previous experience using power tools, the whirring-grinding-snap of the shop can be intimidating.

After completing a bronze casting, students were asked to design a table or pedestal to support it.

“I had a ton of anxiety in the 3D shop, but George is a really supportive instructor. He walked me through everything I needed, I felt supported. And I felt so proud and empowered to make something physical,” stated Harper. The experience was so positive that Harper declared the furniture design major in her second semester at MCAD. With her senior project coming up in the spring, she is confident in her choices and the future it will bring.

Once students have declared their majors and are halfway through their programs, all participate in a junior review. From October into November, the hallway galleries are resplendent with individual exhibitions set up by students having their reviews. Students present their work to a panel of faculty who discuss their goals, their progress toward those goals, artists and designers they should know about, and how to strengthen their work. Students also give an oral presentation and a written statement about their work. The experience encompasses the range of presentation techniques that all professional artists and designers execute in their work. It heightens their awareness of the professional fields they will soon enter. It confirms the choices they made when they were first-year college students. And it guides them toward those senior projects and exhibitions just around the corner.


Karen Wirth
MCAD Interim President