Editorial notebooks

New perspective on the arts

EMAC major at RPI offers surprising advantages

Rensselaer is a school known for engineering, computer science, and the STEM-related fields. This, however, does not mean that other majors do not exist. Having all of these majors in different types of engineering and science gives so much opportunity for disciplines to mix, work together, and make amazing discoveries or advances in research. I am a dual major now, but when I started here my sole major was Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication (better known as EMAC), and yes, that exists here.

Since the start of high school, I have wanted to have a career as a graphic designer. I thought that I wanted to design advertisements. All of that has changed now, but I still have a passion for design. What I do not have a passion for, however, is art schools. I had interest in lots of fields, like science and math, even though graphic design was always my favorite thing to do. The last thing I wanted to do when applying to college was throw all of my other knowledge away and lock myself into doing just art for the rest of my life. This is the reason I came to RPI to study a major that was not always on the front page of admissions materials or even mentioned at presentations. I remember going to the Accepted Students Celebration presentation and hearing how students are required to take computer science in my major, and also have plenty of elective space to try out different disciplines, possibly for dual majors. I was excited to have the opportunity to find what I liked, and follow my strengths, while still focusing on what I loved to do.

First semester of freshman year, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, going through my first few weeks of classes with excitement to learn new stuff and experience new types of classes. I was taking Computer Science I, which is considered a super easy class to a lot of people who come in to RPI with experience in programming. However, when I started, I literally did not know what a programming language was. I came in from a high school that focused solely on humanities and was never exposed to the field of computer science before. So, I had some trouble on one of the first homework assignments and decided to go to office hours for help. The TA who was helping me asked what my major was, and when I responded “EMAC,” he promptly responded with a very respectful, “What the hell is that?” While I definitely appreciated his immense interest in my major, you could imagine me, as an excited, determined freshman, sitting there shocked that a graduate TA would ask that question in that way. Although I had realized at that point in the school year that not most people knew what EMAC was, they usually asked respectfully what the major was about, and I did not mind explaining. Because of this, I explained what EMAC was to him and went on asking my questions. When asking my next question, he responded with a rushed answer and said, “You know, you don’t really have to know any of this for design. I don’t know why you’re in this class.” At this point, I just told him that I would do the rest of the homework myself, feeling pretty defeated.

If you ask someone why they came to RPI to study arts or communication, you will probably get the answer that they wanted to experience other subjects here, wanted to dual major, or simply wanted a more pre-professional curriculum than arts schools offer. Whatever the reason is, the EMAC major itself is really unique, and has a lot to offer not only the students, but the school as well. When I came here, I found out that I really like computer science (with no thanks at all to that TA), and I have more of an interest in designing and developing websites. I think that if more EMAC majors worked together with the more STEM-related majors, great things could happen, such as really interesting, fresh, and new research projects (and well-designed posters). Overall, Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication is an extremely unique major, and deserves more respect. Also, TAs should probably get training on how to talk to people they are helping.