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Cross-registration sees increase among RISD students

Students at neighboring institutions encounter new perspectives, enrollment challenges

Only a select handful of students at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design are chosen to participate in the Brown-RISD Dual Degree program each year. But hundreds of other students at both institutions choose to cross-register for classes at their neighbor on College Hill, getting a taste of both a research university and an arts school.

The number of students electing to take courses at the other school — not including members of the Dual Degree program — rose from 361 in the 2007-08 academic year to 486 in the 2014-15 academic year, according to the Office of Institutional Research. The number of Brown students taking courses at RISD has remained relatively consistent at around 175, according to the OID. But the number of RISD students taking courses at Brown rose substantially from 186 in the 2007-08 academic year to 308 in the 2014-15 academic year.

Cross-registration “works both ways — it gives students a different perspective and a different set of opportunities than they have at their individual institution,” said Lisa Mather, associate registrar for operations management.

“Brown is a terrific institution and has a much broader set of offerings in many areas such as languages, sciences, computers and engineering, which is an attraction for many RISD students,” said Steven Berenback, registrar at RISD.

Whether going down the hill to RISD or up the hill to Brown, students encounter new disciplines and ideas.

Ian Garrity ’16 has explored his interests by taking classes in the department of film, animation and video at RISD. He cited the “superior” facilities and equipment at RISD as one reason he chose to take RISD courses.

“While Brown does offer filmmaking courses and equipment closets are available, the RISD film, animation and video department has a deeper and more specific set of studio classes that not only refines your technical skills but simultaneously stimulates your intellectual understandings of the concepts standing behind them,” Garrity said.

Abby Levy-Westhead ’19 decided to take an analog photography class at RISD during her first semester. “I’ve done photography for four years and really wanted access to a darkroom, and I know that the RISD class is supposed to be really great,” Levy-Westhead said.

“You’re definitely introduced to a larger population” when taking classes at Brown, said Denna Ameen, a RISD senior. “Because RISD is so small, you get to know other people.”

Studio classes at RISD often last six hours, causing “scheduling issues” with cross-registration, Ameen added.

Prerequisites may also complicate the process of cross-registering.

Before enrolling in advanced studio classes at RISD, Brown students must first take the prerequisite VISA 0100: “Studio Foundation.” A  lottery determines entry into the course, and its 10 sections this semester are each capped at 19 students.

But Levy-Westhead avoided taking VISA 0100 by emailing the analog photography professor, who then let her into the advanced course, she said.

Brown students’ abilities to enroll in a RISD class are often up to the discretion of the professor, with or without VISA 0100 on their transcript, Mather said.

RISD restricts first-years from taking classes at Brown unless they have the permission of Dean of Experimental and Foundation Studies Joanne Stryker. Otherwise, RISD students must fulfill prerequisites for each Brown course they are interested in, Berenback said.

Garrity said once he figured out the process of registration, enrolling was easy.

“Each department has their own particular method for cross-registration when it comes to their wait lists, so it’s on you to find out what those processes are and get in touch with the departments and professors accordingly,” Garrity said.

Humanities and sciences classes at Brown may require a different type of thinking than studio classes at RISD, forcing students to exercise different parts of their brains.

Berenback said RISD students enrolled in Brown courses may face challenges “in terms of the reading, writing and studying they may be asked to do,” while Brown students enrolled in RISD courses may struggle with “the time and effort and thinking that is involved in studio classes.”

Despite these difficulties, Garrity said he sees value in taking classes at RISD.

“You are introduced into an extremely proficient, intelligent and skilled set of young artists that challenge the way you think about art making,” Garrity said.


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