Unexpected Loss & Gain: College of Saint Rose Grads Reflect on Program Closures

We read with heartbreak the news of the College of Saint Rose closing several of their programs. It feels cruel in a year when students have missed out on tradition, graduates are having a door sealed forever. The announcement, though understandable from a fiscal perspective, sobered the shop.

As the news spread on Basecamp, Leslie Buccino, BFA ’11, Graphic Design, former Tramp intern, and current Art Director, typed something about her history disappearing.

A woman kneels in a studio photographing an art piece for a client.
Leslie checking a proof in the light and creating a video to share with a client.

After so many months apart, it’s amazing how message threads have become a little bit like talking in person. After a while, the conversation cooled down. Then, like the artist she is, Leslie communicated her feelings through design. 

An image of classmates mugging for the camera. And a caption of thanks to the College of St. Rose.

You Really Can’t Go Home

Buildings get rebuilt, names change, but you don’t expect a program to go away forever. “Saint Rose” has always been inherent to who its graduates are, where they may be. The announcement reinforced how COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses and reminded us of what we hold most dear. 

“These programs have enriched the lives of all of us at the College in some way, but for Saint Rose to continue living its mission, we must arrive at a sustainable budget. Carrying a structural deficit makes it nearly impossible for Saint Rose to weather storms like COVID-19, which handed us millions of dollars in revenue loss in one year,” said Jeff Stone, chair of the Saint Rose Board of Trustees.

Rob Hendricks, BFA ’14, Art Director, shared how far back his connection to Saint Rose reached. 

Growing up in a small town you don’t get a lot of exposure to the arts, especially not as a career path.

You know what your parents do, you know there are teachers, you know someone delivers your mail, picks up your garbage, takes care of the park, but who made your favorite comic or cartoon? CD cover? or that t-shirt with the cool graphic? I never asked myself those questions until Nicole Schilling’s drawing and painting class at Fort Edward High School.

“Graphic Design”

That was the path, she said, I would want to consider if I wanted to make art, not as paintings or sculpture, but posters, t-shirts, the logo on the side of your favorite headphones, the jerseys our sports teams wore, and on and on.

Graphic Designers were these hidden people who made beautiful art not to hang, but to consume or for others to use. Creations hiding in plain sight, no signatures on the bottom or placards to define them. People building the visuals of everyday life.

And it just so happened, that “Schill’s” alma mater, The College of Saint Rose, had a well respected and rigorous program just 45 minutes south of that little art room on Kay Street.

10th Grade. 10th Grade was when that conversation took place. Not a month later I said to a friend “I’m gonna study Graphic Design at Saint Rose.”

I got into College without even writing an essay. I had to apply to the art department twice, in person, and barely made it in. I was a straight-A student growing up, and after my first year in the art department, I was almost put on academic probation.

A twenty something guy mugs for the camera.
Rob the intern.

St Rose taught me how to work for what I want. It wasn’t the art school cliche, although there was plenty of that too, it was boot camp. You need to love this or it will eat you alive.Learning to work hard, in turn, taught me again how to love the work.

There isn’t enough space here to name-check every friend I met or project that lead to a breakthrough. Every trip to NYC or every all-nighter. Every professor who picked me up or put me in my place with tough love.

I could talk about crying to Anne Hobday when I bombed my first graphic design project. I could talk about Ann Breaznell telling me my enthusiasm was my strongest skill and that the rest would come. I could talk about Jessica Loy telling me not to go into publications because I wouldn’t feel fulfilled, me doing it anyway, and her being right. I could talk about Chris St. Cyr solving a Rubik’s cube while giving a lecture on his first day as a professor and how that’s still the coolest thing ever. These moments are infinite and endless, the list of names much longer.

The best way, however, to sum up, what The Center for Art & Design at The College of Saint Rose gave me is to simply say the last 10 years of my life.

I went to Saint Rose because my high school teacher went there.

I got my first portfolio review because of her too.

I got a hard lesson in working for what I want because I wasn’t ready, but she believed in me.

I got an incredible education and even better stories because my professors were patient, compassionate, and brilliant.

I was able to take what I did have and turn it into a life because of that patience and brilliance.

I had an internship because, well, they made me.

I applied to Trampoline for that internship because Derek spoke in my packaging class.

I was able to vastly improve my skills because of a summer of full time work at Trampoline, all for credit.

I came back for my senior year, because of that summer, ready to engage with the curriculum on a level previously unthinkable.

I decided to move to Richmond, VA after senior year because one of my roommates (a music major, many of whom are also losing their programs to these cuts) was from there.

I got my one and only interview in Richmond because Kelly McMurray, taking over internship placement for the first time at the college, went to VCU and knew a classmate.

I got my first job because that classmate didn’t have a position for me, but referred me to the magazine across the hall. I worked there for two years.

I came home and there were no openings at Trampoline, but they stayed in touch because of that internship.

Aaron Draplin pulls Rob into a tight hug.
Rob getting tough love from Aaron Draplin.

I got an email from the Tramps for part-time work because of the very same. I’ve been a Tramp for the last 4 years.

My heart breaks when I think about all the kids that won’t get to follow that path and the professors who won’t get to shepherd them a long it, but I am filled to the brim when I get to think on my time there.

#Stroseartkid

 

Our first employee, Peter Girard, was a graduate and a Glens Falls native. Our second employee Trina (Poland) Quandt, was also from Glens Falls and earned a Masters of Science in Art Education from Saint Rose while she worked for us. Trina’s efforts filtered into our shop as she practiced different sculpture techniques using recycled materials and hung them throughout the studio. Saint Rose became a part of our culture as seven students came for internships (Dylan Lindstadt, Maria Savino, Kayla Rozell-Herlihy, Kelli Germain, Emily Ruchlicki, Kacey Visser, BFA ’18), five transitioning to full-time employees, and one started as an independent contractor covering a maternity leave who then became a full-time employee. 

An Intern Becomes an Employee, Remains a Saint Rose Grad

Kacey Visser’s quiet way could fool you into thinking she doesn’t have a razor-sharp wit or discerning eye for layout. Between her internship and her full-time employment, we’ve come to look forward to the way she’ll tilt her head, deliver a one-liner, and produce top-shelf creative time and again. Saint Rose creates resilience, tenacity, and confidence; or maybe that’s the type of student it has attracted over the years.

Life after high school is scary and full of unknowns and for many people. I always knew that I was going to be an artist. I first discovered the prospect of a career in the arts by playing The Game of Life with my family. Every time we played, and I made sure we played a lot, I insisted I play the artist, entirely uninterested in the other career cards lacking in color and excitement. From that moment my plans for the future were clear, but I had no idea how to get there.

Growing up in a small town, my opportunities to get involved in the arts were limited to an elective art class and an “art club” that hardly ever met. Planning for my next steps after high school was daunting but throughout research and self-reflection I became more aware of graphic design as a career path. After touring only two other schools, I visited Saint Rose, learned about their graphic design program, met with the students and the faculty, and my search was done.

A young woman stands in front of her senior project.
Kacey presenting.

Arriving at college was terrifying, but from the moment I started at Saint Rose, it could not have been clearer that this was where I would finally become an artist. In Picotte, our little home away from home, I had the honor to work with professors whose passions filled up classrooms and inspired me to learn, grow, and hone my craft. I was pushed harder than I had ever been before as I was taught to break boundaries and exit comfort zones as I completed projects that I never thought I’d be able to finish when first assigned. I learned to fail and how to bounce back.

A woman checks proofs on a drafting table.
Kacey on a press check for the Mount Snow wedding brochure, which was swoon-worthy.

As I reflect on all I learned at Saint Rose, I realize how lucky I am to have had the experience that I did and I am truly grateful for everything I learned and everyone I learned from. To hear that students in the future will have to embark on this new and scary journey without the guidance of these exceptional teachers breaks my heart because I know everything I learned and every opportunity I had at Saint Rose was invaluable in getting me to where I am today.

A Foundation of Support

Terese Garcia, BS ’95, often makes jokes about being older than many of the designers, but as the Saint Rose news continued to spread, she was visibly a classmate of the other Saint Rose grads. It was devastating to witness their pain, but the significance of their education is evident in their skill, commitment, and love of design.

A young woman with dark curly hair stands in her robe and cap after graduation surrounded by her family and friends.
Terese with her family and her diploma.

Another thing Terese jokes about is not being a writer, but her account of her time at St. Rose is sure to hit you in the feels.

When I think of The College of Saint Rose, I think of support and foundation.

It was by circumstance that I arrived at Saint Rose. An unplanned pregnancy required I change my focus away from the art school by the ocean I had already been accepted to, and stay close to home near my mom and sister. I knew I would need them.

I had graduated from Sage Junior College of Albany with a 3.9 GPA, as a member of Phi Theta Kappa, editor of the Vernacular publication and fresh off a study abroad J term in Paris. Even though it was late in the summer, I was quickly accepted to Saint Rose as a transfer student.

I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant. Thinking back 28 years, the details are a little foggy, but I remember telling Karene (Faul) first. Mostly because I couldn’t hide it much longer and secondly, I had a real concern about the fumes I was breathing in from the silkscreen studio! At the time, Karene was scary to me. I didn’t know any of these new professors and Karene had a reputation of being tough. I’d come to learn that she was only tough on those that didn’t take art seriously.

I don’t remember much of the meeting except that I was terrified. I expected to be looked down on or shamed, or yelled at like a grandmother might do, but there was a softening when I told her. She said “It’s going to be hard. I think you can do it.”

It was hard. I wasn’t able to live up to the standards that I knew I was capable of. I didn’t get to do an internship. I couldn’t go on any big trips. As the first one in my family to go to college, my mom would say “Don’t get upset about the grade. Just get the degree.”

My time at Saint Rose was not traditional. I had responsibilities and distractions that most 21-year-olds don’t. I worked full time at Fay’s Drugs and took a lot of night and summer classes to keep up with my peers from studio classes. I would often show up to post my work for crit and leave as soon as I could.

Kris Herrick and Jessica Loy were my main professors. Kris would notoriously shout “Research, research, research!” when she felt a student’s ideas weren’t expanded enough. Jessica was quieter and once whispered to me that horizontally scaling a font in design software was the “bastardization of a typeface.” Truth I still live by!

An assortment of brochures and custom cut outs for SUNY Cobleskill.
Terese worked on a suite of collateral for SUNY Cobleskill that used die-cuts to great effect.

We studied the work of Paul Rand, Milton Glaser and Louise Fili (who I got to hear speak with all of my Trampoline co-workers in NYC two years ago!) I learned the meaning of—and still use— the word ‘gestalt’ when I see good design. The early 90s were a pivotal time for graphic design. The industry was changing quickly. Computers were doing the job once done by eye and hand. And while I’ve never touched a piece of rubylith since that mechanical and paste-up class, it taught me the attention to detail needed that would serve me well throughout my career.

I graduated with my class of ’95. Karene was right, it was hard. When I think of Saint Rose I think of the quiet support I was given during a tumultuous time in my life. I think of a solid foundation of good design principles during a transitional time in the industry. I think of the emails and calls from professors long after graduation with leads and contact info of possible jobs to help us be successful.

 

A publication called The State of The Park featuring a view of the Adirondacks.
This year’s State of the Park publication benefitted from Terese’s exacting eye for print.

I honestly think a testament to the program is that with all of the distractions and sidebars I’ve had in my life, I have not worked one day—in 25 years— outside of the beautiful world of graphic design.

2020 Has Been a Doozy

It’s hard to imagine anyone not having a text in their phone somewhere asking 2020 what more could possibly happen. There’s no doubt it’s been challenging, but through some of these experiences there has been an opportunity to reflect on the good in the world. Listening to Rob, Leslie, Kacey, and Terese reminisce about Saint Rose, thinking about the exchanges we have had about potential interns, speaking engagements, and celebrating triumphs in the design community, we realize the enduring nature of those experiences. It would be better for the programs to continue, for this to have been a warning rather than a declaration, but we wouldn’t trade the roses on our team for anything.

Thank you to the professors, classmates, guest speakers, administrators, parents, and businesses who contributed to the experience of so many design students. They are indeed out making a difference in the world.