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Letters from Otis

Letters from Otis

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Letter from the President and Provost

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Otis College President Charles Hirschhorn admires a student’s worry stone during a campus event.

Otis College President Charles Hirschhorn admires a student’s worry stone during a campus event; photo by Jennifer Atalla

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Dear Otis Alumnx and Friends, 

Welcome to the Fall 2021 issue of Grid at Otis College, a digital magazine created for you, which began one year ago this week. You can learn more about this issue from Anna Raya in her editor’s letter, but we wanted to share a few fall highlights from the College. 

We’re thrilled to be back on campus. Students and faculty are working together to share their creativity, offering a renewed, vibrant energy on campus. The Residence Hall is bustling with activity and the campus community is following strict COVID-19 guidelines. We’ve also learned much over the past year about flexibility, being open to change, and how those values are essential to an education in art and design.

This fall we welcomed our largest student body in 20 years with 1,252 BFA and MFA students. They come from all over the country and from all corners of the world. Twenty-five percent of our students are international. We are also thrilled that 30 percent of our population is comprised of first-generation students. Helping these students navigate college life will be an important area of focus for our Academic and Campus Life divisions. 

We’re also holding events on campus again. On September 30, we celebrated Otis’s 103rd birthday with cupcakes and treats on the Commons, and this past weekend we hosted Family Day and the Admissions Open House for prospective students and their families. Honoring our rich past while inviting a new generation of artists and designers to join in our legacy is always a privilege. 

Part of what makes Otis so inspiring is the strength and diversity of our campus community. We launched a campaign this fall called “You Belong Here,” which you can read more about in this issue, to honor the sense that students and alumnx have expressed how they found a creative home at Otis. We’ve enjoyed meeting students on campus and are impressed by the tight-knit community that exists here. This community not only helps our students stay connected after they graduate, but also provides them with lifelong personal and professional networks.

Last year was challenging, but it also showed the strength of our community of supporters. We’re pleased to share a new online Honor Roll of our Donors, which we hope you will visit. We could not have weathered the challenges of the past year, or entered this exciting new period of growth and transformation, without your support. Thank you.

Sincerely, 

Charles Hirschhorn, President

Jiseon Lee Isbara, Provost

Letter from the Editor

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You Belong Here banners at Otis College

You Belong Here banners at Otis College; photo by Jennifer Atalla

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Something amazing happens when we find our flock. As a community of artists and designers, chances are that most of us stood out a little in high school (or even before). I was thinking of this as I helped work on the “You Belong Here” welcome back campaign, a cross-departmental effort that came from a place of care and compassion. The literal signs of the campaign hang all around the Commons, but I’m more moved by the spirit of community, acceptance, and celebration of each of our differences that permeates every building and public space. It’s this theme of belonging and connection that runs through many of the stories in this Fall 2021 issue of Grid at Otis College

Digital Media Specialist Jen Atalla and I collaborated with students, staff, and faculty on a story in which people talked about how they feel connected to the community at Otis. For Foundation student Santino Kina it’s the feeling of joy, love, and safety that has allowed her to connect and make friends faster than she’s ever experienced. “Everyone is a friendly face,” she says. Hazel Mandujano, Director of Alumnx Relations, first saw differences when she arrived at Otis as an undergraduate student, but it was in “critique and on studio days—the quiet working moments when we were all artists—that I felt like I really was in the right place, like I belonged, and I was part of the fabric of the community of artists at Otis,” she says. 

We also connected with some of our overseas alumnx in Korea to see how they felt about their time at Otis. “If the studio courses taught me what to design, Liberal Arts and Sciences courses helped me understand and convince others why I design,” says Joong Han Lee (’09 BFA Product Design), who is now a Senior Product Designer at Note Design Studio. Their story speaks to the College’s efforts to strengthen the sense of community felt abroad by Otis alumnx who live and work all over the world. 

We also took a look ahead to the 15th anniversary of the Otis College Report on the Creative Economy by taking a look back at its modest though ambitious beginnings—to prove the economic viability of a career in art and design. Even though the Creative Economy has taken a hit during the pandemic, there are signs of hope in how essential local and even national governmental agencies and advocacy organizations view art and design now that we’ve all undergone a year without the connection that they enable. 

Be sure to check out my interview with Dr. Julie Spencer, who helped create the Student Health and Wellness Center on the Goldsmith campus back in 2016. Dr. Spencer had to throw out her assumptions about art and design education the minute she first started seeing patients. “Coming from medicine, where everything is protocolized and procedure-based and sterile, I thought art and design school would be more free-flowing. But there’s definitely structure to getting a BFA,” she says. And the ways in which physicians with her training would ordinarily treat student patients—recommending journaling or other creative outlets to manage stress—don’t apply to Otis students since they’re already doing those things on a daily basis. So instead, Dr. Spencer works closely and individually with each patient. “This is the aspect of adolescent and young adult medicine that I love so much, that it has a counseling component to it,” she says. “I get to really spend the time and get to know the student.”

There are five new Alumnx Spotlights to check out, including new work and projects by Adam Blish (’17 BFA Product Design); Claire Fullerton (’13 BFA Product Design)Aaron Gonzalez (’19 BFA Communication Arts, Illustration)Noah Humes (’17 BFA Communication Arts, Illustration); and Claire Oring (’11 BFA Digital Media, Animation)

Please take a moment to share in and celebrate the work of our faculty and alumnx in the respective Faculty Notes and Class Notes sections. If you’d like to send an update for the Spring 2022 issue of Grid at Otis College, please use this form if you’re a faculty member, and this form if you’re an alumnx.

Thank you for spending time with this recent issue of Grid. We’re wondering in what ways you feel connected to the Otis Community. Drop us a line at communications@otis.edu and let us know!

Anna Raya, Editorial Director