Percent Greek: none
Location: 2298 MetroCenter Blvd.
Founded: In 1885 as Watkins Institute. Samuel Watkins, a Nashville businessman, built the school on his property.
Notable Accomplishment: The Interior Design program at Watkins recently received an important accreditation from the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER).
I'm hungry, dammit. Where can I eat?
Because Watkins students don't live on campus, they don't need too many dining options on campus. There's only one place to eat at Watkins: a restaurant and coffeehouse called Espresso Self. Watkins held a contest to name its restaurant, so you can thank the students for the cool and witty name. Espresso Self serves meat-and-three foods, salads and sandwiches. It's open 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., but only during the fall and spring semesters. If you go to Watkins in the summer, you're out of luck.
Strip malls and commercial establishments surround the school itself, so there are plenty of other dining options if you're sick of Espresso Self. In addition to all the fast food around, there's a place called Kebab Gyros right next door to Watkins.
What course or professor will change my life?
Oh, there are so many. World Religion, a history course, will open your eyes and make you question your faith (or lack thereof). Terry Glispin teaches sculpture and is a favorite among Watkins students. If you're a fine arts student, you absolutely have to take his class. Leslie Haines is praised by her graphic design students. She knows everything there is to know about the industry and uses her extensive connections to help students land high-profile internships all over the country.
What's the campus media like?
Watkins doesn't have a daily newspaper. It does, however, have a quarterly newspaper called The Forum, which features student articles, artwork, poetry and narratives. The student government, known as the student forum, produces the publication. Forum copies fly off the racks, but if you can't find a copy, the library keeps each issue.
What degrees can I get at Watkins?
Watkins offers a bachelor of fine arts, with degrees in five areas: interior design, graphic design, film, fine arts and photography. An associates degree is only available in fine arts. Film and graphic design also have post-graduate certificate programs for those who already have a bachelor's degree but want to further their study. If you're interested in taking an art class but don't know if an entire certificate or degree is the right program for you, you can take a non-credit Watkins class through its Community Education Program. Watkins has non-credit classes for children, teenagers and adults.
What sorts of people go to Watkins?
The bulk of the student population falls in the 20-25 age range, but Watkins also has a large percentage of recent high school graduates, as well as middle-aged and retired adults going back for a degree. Until five years ago, the student body was composed almost entirely of adults returning to school. But the school is growing rapidly (photography enrollment quadrupled in just one year) and most new applicants are either transfer students or students just out of high school.
What are the dorms like?
Watkins doesn't have any dorms, at least not yet. The school is finalizing a project to build on-campus housing that will include an "arts village" with student apartments. It should be completed by fall 2005. Until then, students must find their own housing, though the admissions office tries to help as much as possible.
Once the art village is complete, Watkins will probably see a demographic shift in its student body. The school will seem more attractive to recent high school grads who seek a typical college experience. Obviously, the middle-aged students probably won't want to leave their families to live in a college dormitory, but the twentysomethings may embrace the opportunity.
What is student life like?
Watkins is a small school, and the student body is very tight. The small class sizes (about 12 students) make it easy to meet people. Cliques form within each program, and at least 10 Watkins student can be found at most any art opening in Nashville. For the most part, interior design students hang out with other interior design students, photographers with other photographers, but some overlap does exist. Fine arts majors may help on a student film, graphic designers may help the interior designers and many majors require a fine arts class to graduate. According to students, the film kids act like the big men on campus, but they really aren't.
Watkins professors actively socialize with students outside of the classroom. A professor might tell his students about an art show or film presentation and suggest they stop by. Film students can be seen with a professor or two at Nashville bars nearly every night of the week.
How do I get my work in art shows?
Throughout the year, the various majors will showcase their students' work around the school. If the photography students complete a new assignment, their art may be displayed in the hallways. Watkins also has an annual art show, open to all majors, for which students submit their work as they would a professional art show. The school doesn't guarantee spots to studentsit's possible to graduate from Watkins without having your art displayed in a show. Watkins tries to make the show as realistic and competitive as possible, to give students a taste of the real art world. As fine arts student Mike Bielaczyc puts it, "If I graduate and am used to having my art displayed all the time, without any disappointment, how am I going to react the first time I try to get in a real show?" So shoot for the annual show, but don't feel bad your art isn't selected. Remember, van Gogh sold only one painting during his life.
Who teaches at Watkins?
There are two requirements to teach at Watkins: you must have a master's degree and be current in your field. If you teach graphic design, you must be a working graphic designer. This second requirement separates Watkins professors from their peers at other colleges. Most college professors teach for a living, but Watkins professors are required to hold down another job in their industry. The technology in film, graphic and interior design changes every day, and professors must keep abreast of the new mediums. This isn't so necessary for a math professor, as calculus is the same no matter how long ago you learned it.
Are all Watkins grads starving artists?
Some are, but many graduates go on to become successful artists and designers, which is not an easy task. Zac Adams, a Watkins alumnus, recently had two of his short films aired on PBS. He also has a feature film, Rush Night, coming out in select cities this summer. Because Watkins professors must be working industry professionals, their students graduate with up-to-date knowledge about technology and trends within their field. This gives them an edge when applying for jobs with graphic or interior design firms, working on a film or starting out as freelancers. Brian Hulsey, a recent fine arts graduate, got a degree in sculpture and now works for a Nashville company that makes "sculptural playground equipment."
By Claire Suddath
Well said Steve.
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