Hampshire College - Comments and Student Experiences|
In my family, going to college was not an option, it was REQUIRED. My parents were both graduates of prestigious universities, Dad was a Columbia Alum, and Mom was a University of Chicago Alumna.Hampshire was actually my first choice in the five small colleges I applied to as my top choices (Emerson, Antioch, Bennington & Marlboro were the other four). I also applied to RISD, Yale, UC Berkeley and NYU as my reach schools, and SUNY Purchase was my back-up. However, Hampshire was the one place that stuck out to me the most from all the others and the one I felt most at home at when I visited the campus, and when I had my admissions interview with the then Dean of Admissions, I KNEW it was the right choice for me, because I wanted the freedom and responsibility of crafting my own education. During my gap year in between high school and college, I worked with a Hampshire student who was a graduate of my high school's sister school in NYC, and she gave me a lot of advice and insight into Hampshire, and it was GREAT that I connected with her, because it meant having someone I knew and could socialize with before I even got to campus.
I came to Hampshire with goals, and with motivation and focus. I was a bit different from other first years at Camp Hamp, I was 19 (almost 20) when I entered in the fall of 1993, I came with real-world work and travel experiences (my parents traveled a lot, and I lived in London for three years growing up during my middle school and beginning of my high school years) from the year I took off in between high school and college and I came to rural Massachusetts from a heavily urban environment back in the early 90's.
Hampshire was a VERY different campus and academic environment back then opposed to now. In fact, back when I entered Hampshire the entire school structure and Div I process was COMPLETELY different than it is today. The CEL plan and "distribution classes requirement" approach to Div I was non-existent. There were only four schools back then also: Humanities and Arts (HA) Natural Science (NS) Social Science (SS) and Communications and Cognitive Science (CCS) there was no school of Interdisciplinary Arts (IA) and Humanities Arts and Cultural Studies (HACU) and the School of Critical Social Inquiry (CSI) was simply known as the school of Social Science (SS). You could elect to do either a "project based" Div I exam in each school or do a "two-course option" in lieu of the project by taking two approved courses at different levels of difficulty in each school. The exception being in the School of Natural Science (it had to be project based) because you had a requirement to demonstrate a general knowledge and understanding of the Sciences.
The role of the Academic Advisor was pretty much the same as it is now, they guide you through the Div I process. Also, it was an academic policy that you should complete project-based Div I's in whichever school(s) you were planning to file your Div II in as well. Since I cross-filed my Div II in two schools; HA & CCS, I did projects in both of those schools, the NS required Div I project and a 2-course option in SS. There was MUCH more flexibility back then with Div I, so you could file your Div II before all your Div I's were completed as long as you had completed your Div I in the school(s) you were filing your Div II in.By the end of my first year at Hampshire, I had my SS 2-course option completed, and my CCS project done. In the fall of my second year, I completed my HA Div I and filed my Div II. In the spring of my second year I completed my NS Div I while still being a Div II student. That kind of academic freedom is now gone at Hampshire unfortunately.
I was fortunate enough to have a Theater Professor as my Advisor (whom later served as Chair of my Div II and Div III Committees) and also had committee members that included Film/Video, Literature, Gender/Sexuality Studies, Communications and Cognitive Science and even two 5-college professors from Amherst and UMass that sat on my both my Div II and Div III Committees. The BEST piece of advice I can give is to make 100% CERTAIN that your Advisor is in AT LEAST one the school(s) you are concentrating in. Speaking of 5 College Professors, EVERY Hampshire student should take AT LEAST 1-2 courses per semester at the other schools for academic variety. I took classes at ALL 4 of the other campuses, including Mt. Holyoke where I did an Advanced Acting & Directing Workshop class in their Theatre Arts program, I took Theater Literature, Directing and Playwriting classes at Smith, I took Acting and Theater Movement, and Multimedia Performance classes at Amherst, and Cinematography, Film Production and Musical Theater workshops at UMass. The other campuses represent the array of vast combined educational resources that easily rival and surpass other large universities, including even Ivy League ones. In addition,the impressive cultural opportunities and advantages of living in an area like the Pioneer Valley aren't usually found outside of urban areas. When I graduated from Hampshire, I spent time living and working in Northampton while I applied to grad schools. It was only four months after graduating that I found myself acting in a community musical theater production of Cabaret at the Academy of Music in Northampton and then directing a show at the Northampton Center for the Arts soon after that.
Hampshire is NOT an academically inferior college AT ALL, in fact I found it intensely cerebral and rigorous, and I was doing work that peers of mine who were undergrads at places like NYU,BU, CUNY and SUNY schools weren't. They were completing Gen Ed requirements while I was performing in productions and making a short film and doing multi-media performance art and working interdisciplinary in both Theater & Film. And their classes were HORRIBLY boring sounding, whilst I was taking courses like "From Page to
Stage" "Health Care Issues in Minority Communities" (which my NS Div I project idea came from coincidentally) "Psychological Dynamics of Theater" and "Caliban in the Americas" and "Shakespeare & Woolf" "Brecht and New World Cinema" "Art & Activism" "Leprosy, Racism & the Law" "Staging Gender, Sexuality & Race""Process and Critique" and many others.
As a creative student, Hampshire was such a fantastic choice for me because of the focus on the Film and Theater programs (and the facilities for those programs) is EXCEPTIONAL for a small liberal arts college. Back to my initial statement though: "Hampshire is a mixed bag."The one thing I did REALLY find frustrating about Hampshire was that I HAD to live on-campus until I graduated. Let's actually talk about housing at Hampshire: I lived in Dakin my first year (it's fine, like any other typical college dorm), I started off my second year in Merrill, but then moved to Enfield (during January Term), where I lived until the end of my third year, and then I finished up my fourth year living in Prescott, which for me was the best choice. I never lived in Greenwich so I can't speak to it, but
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