How can a design education prepare students to thrive in a complex and rapidly changing world? Parsons' first-year course of study immerses students in an exploration of art and design concepts, skills, and critical practices, training them to become flexible thinkers, strong makers, and lifelong learners. The curriculum offers a survey of approaches to art and design that prepare students for the undergraduate programs at Parsons and enable them to envision paths beyond the confines of a single discipline.
The first-year curriculum is designed to accommodate a variety of study paths. Students interested in focusing on a traditional discipline, examining creative and academic fields in combination, or exploring approaches to art and design can tailor their studies to meet their needs. Parsons’ undergraduate curriculum is the product of continual refinement over many years, and its most recent development is a restructuring of the first-year framework, which went into effect in fall 2013. Drawing on the former Foundation program, the curriculum balances breadth and depth, integrates studio and liberal arts learning, and gives students flexibility in choosing how to reach their educational goals while taking advantage of the unique opportunities New York City offers.
The first-year curriculum constitutes a common experience for all incoming Parsons students, with the same set of first-year course requirements for students in all BFA and BS programs. Students are able to shape their path of study within those requirements, selecting from the various options available for many of the required courses. BBA students at Parsons follow a similar curriculum, with a few exceptions specific to their programs, and share many courses with BFA and BS students.
First-year courses prepare students for life as skilled and socially aware artists and designers. Classes focusing on broadly relevant design concepts, tools, and methods—including studios exploring 2D and 3D processes, drawing, and digital design as well as liberal arts seminars—bring together students who are passionate about all kinds of art and design and who will one day forge new paths in an array of disciplines. This interaction is a central aspect of the first-year experience. Today's classmates are tomorrow's colleagues.
These relationships and experiences often lead students to consider switching majors or pursuing careers that do not fit comfortably within established categories. After completing freshman-year coursework, students work with advisors, in consultation with instructors, to define their goals and choose the appropriate degree program.