Some decisions in life are difficult. Others are so easy it isn’t funny – decisions like the one I made when the folks at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) asked if I’d like to visit their amazing campus in southern Georgia in the middle of a Michigan winter.
Short answer: Yes please!
If you’re a rider, there’s a very good chance you already know SCAD’s name – their hunt seat team is the reigning IHSA national champion two years running – but I’m willing to bet that, beyond the name, you don’t know much more about this unique and wonderful school. (I certainly didn’t!) Now that I’ve returned from two and a half days of exploring the depth of their campus offerings (in Savannah only – there are satellite campuses in Atlanta and Honk Kong too, plus an off-campus study site open solely to SCAD students in LaCoste, France if you want to investigate all of your options) and the phenomenal small city location in which the campus thrives, let me be the first to tell you that SCAD is more than a riding school, more than an art school, and has far more depth to it than a single blog post can cover.
Established in 1978 and currently home to 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the Savannah location (the largest of the three sites even though it’s located in the smallest of the three cities), SCAD offers a total of 100 combined programs of study if you add up all of the possible combinations of its 40 undergraduate major programs, minors, online programs, and the graduate offerings in the curriculum. And while on the surface you might think that the type of students who seek an art school education would know walking through the door on their first day that they only want to specialize in a particular area and have no interests outside of their own medium, SCAD is the art school that turns that notion on its head.
First, everyone has to meet basic general education credits (and usually take these during their first year – a schedule which consists of three academic quarters as opposed to two semesters like most schools). Second, after students enter the initial courses in their chosen artistic discipline, they’re pushed by their professors to explore all areas of that discipline and to move outside of it in order to improve the quality of both their work and their understanding. A fashion design student, for example, might take courses within the textile program that will help him or her produce the very fabrics that will comprise the finished garments. Or a film student might supplement directing classes with work in sound design to better understand the tonal structure of a finished film. From these experiences, students develop a wider breadth of knowledge and experiences than they would by solely focusing on just one area, leading not only to improved mastery of the course material, but also to wider employment opportunities after graduation – a reassuring piece of information for parents who might fear that the only sure career opportunity for an art school graduate is as a barista (the quintessential image of the starving artist).
(Also of note, parents – 98 percent of the 2015 SCAD graduating class of 2015 was employed or enrolled in a graduate program within 10 months of graduation. And because so many employers seek SCAD graduates specifically, the jobs they enter often have starting salaries in the high five- and low six-figures. The campus career fair – which was happening during our visit – is limited to 150 employers and there’s a waiting list for companies to get in. SCAD alumni are in demand!)
Riders can find a home at SCAD whether they want to major or minor in equine or simply ride on the varsity hunt seat or American National Riding Commission (ANRC) team. Just as in the other academic programs, the focus in the equine program is on exploring the world outside of just one discipline or school of thought; each equine major not only takes a basic veterinary course, but majors also must take a course in equine history (looking at ancient texts from all disciplines – typically a first for students) and also in basic groundwork techniques, as well as caring for one of the program’s over 60 horses and maintaining a daily journal on its habits.
What’s truly unique about SCAD’s equine major, however, is that it’s often a challenge for faculty to keep students within the major and prevent them from dropping down to the minor because of all of the other enticing courses of study available to them – that’s something you don’t hear on many campuses! Equine and fashion, equine and photography – students love to use one facet of their educational experience to inform and inspire the other and the results are truly impressive.