VCD students struggle following sophomore portfolio review


Amy Reynolds, dean of Kent State’s College of Communication and Information, talks to sophomores at the CCI Sophomore Appreciation Lunch in Olson Hall Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 in Olson Hall. 

Molly Spillman

Sophomore year, or as some call it, “the sophomore slump,” has many students questioning their path in college and what opportunities their school has to offer.

For students in Kent State’s School of Visual Communication Design (VCD), these are struggles they know all too well.

The School of Visual Communication Design (VCD) requires every second year student to go through sophomore portfolio review, which decides their fate within the school.

Sophomore VCD student Nicole Cramer explained the stress put on students during the fall semester.

“You get a list of mandatory submissions you need in your portfolio,” Cramer said. “It is the deciding factor on if you get into the major.”

After the 6 week waiting period, students receive their work back with a decision letter. But, what happens next?

The direction students take in the program is sometimes unclear because many are subjected to overly busy schedules and unrealistic expectations after getting accepted.

During the sophomore College of Communication and Information (CCI) lunch with Dean Amy Reynolds and Assistant Dean Matthew Rollyson on Wednesday, many VCD students voiced their concerns about the program, specifically during sophomore year.

A common thread among most was the lack of communication within the school and allocation of resources.

Many students noted VCD requires every student to purchase a lengthy list of materials that sometimes aren’t even used, and the school doesn’t have access to the specific printing needed for their projects.

“We are going to FedEx on Main Street every other day, sometimes every day, just to get our projects printed correctly,” Kathleen Studnicha, a sophomore VCD student, said to Reynolds.

Reynolds and Rollyson made a point to discuss internship and study abroad opportunities CCI has to offer. However, VCD students said they feel left out of these experiences.

Cramer said “VCD’s inflexible schedule” makes it hard to schedule non-VCD courses into her semester, like a foreign language or a study abroad opportunity.

Even if VCD students can’t easily fit a semester abroad into their schedules, Rollyson noted to not dismiss summer study abroad options or service learning.

“It’s incredibly important and valuable to get out of the VCD and CCI comfort zone,” Rollyson said. “Make it a priority to include experiential learning.”

Kaitlin Stanaitis, sophomore VCD student, struggles with balancing coursework with her three studio classes and extracurriculars.

Stanaitis was offered an internship this semester at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center on campus, yet had to turn it down due to her demanding coursework.

“I just wish I would have had better preparation going into VCD,” Stanaitis said.

Reynolds finds the solutions to these problems by increasing communication across “the college as a whole” and a need to “bridge the gap” between advisors, professors and students.

In addition to possible changes in the VCD program, Reynolds urged students to use CCI resources already available to them to help their sophomore year run smoother.

“Every school has an internship coordinator,” she said.  This can help connect students to possible opportunities.

Other CCI students found the career center on campus helpful, as well as regularly talking to their advisers.

Although the second year of college is difficult in CCI, especially in the VCD program, Reynolds reminded students to explore all options.

“There isn’t just one right path,” she said. “Recognize opportunities and make adjustments.”

Molly Spillman is the CCI reporter, contact her at [email protected].