Marjan Harmozi, left, Area Head of Drawing Form and Drawing Studio, works with a Foundation student

The exploration and growth that students make in their first year at Otis College paves the way to graduation and beyond.

By Anna Raya

When new students arrive at Otis College, they’re not expected to immediately declare a major or even know what they want to pursue in art and design. The first-year experience at Otis is unique for its well-rounded blend of Foundation studio courses in drawing and design principles, liberal arts and sciences courses on such topics as writing and art history, and Creative Action courses focused on community- and issues-centered contextual learning. 

It’s the time spent in the Foundation studios that is most, well, foundational, as students are fully immersed in technical skills-building and made aware of creative disciplines and pathways for post-college success. It’s a program that has helped ensure student success for over 40 years. 

“The Foundation program delivers the fundamental skills and enriches students’ accumulated theory and practice across arts and design disciplines,” says Foundation Chair TeaYoun Kim-Kassor. “A primary goal of first-year studies in Foundation is to instill in students a confidence in their ability to manifest creativity.” 

Here are five key reasons why Otis College’s Foundation program is so meaningful to students and faculty alike. 

1. Interdisciplinary Focus

Being able to work alongside students of differing creative talents and interests is one of the qualities Otis students most frequently cite as key to their own development and experience. Students have the opportunity to work next to future fashion designers, painters, product designers, animators, photographers, architects, graphic designers, sculptors, toy designers, landscape architects, and illustrators. In this way, Foundation mirrors the future, when the boundaries between the various creative fields will overlap and sometimes disappear.

2. Emphasis on Sequential Learning

The Foundation program emphasizes sequential learning—taking incremental steps in order to accumulate the skills, confidence, and understanding needed to reach a higher goal. This starts with activities and problems that focus attention on individual tasks and issues related to the courses. As the year progresses, the coursework evolves from activity that is highly defined by instructors to activity that is increasingly defined by the student. This evolution allows students to discover a degree of personal vision. 

3. Safe Learning Environment

Otis faculty and staff create an agile, flexible, and collaborative learning environment. Students start the year by attending studio classes within a “section” or group of other students who meet throughout two semesters of Foundation studio. This section provides valuable peer support, a secure setting to work in, and better opportunities for developing creative, social, and professional connections.

4. Foundation Forward

Foundation Forward is a process that puts students in the driver’s seat of their remaining three years at Otis. It consists of three opportunities to gather information and meet key people before selecting a major or minor. The process begins with Fall Meet-Ups, informal group meetings with department chairs where students can learn about individual departments and ask questions. There’s also a Foundation Forward course in Otis’s learning management system, The Nest, that provides comprehensive information on all the majors and minors offered. Foundation Forward culminates in the spring during a week of information sessions during which students can meet department chairs, faculty, alumni, and Foundation Forward Ambassadors, who are current students in each department. Majors and minors are declared in February before the sophomore year, ensuring that students have plenty of time and opportunities to explore all that Otis College has to offer in preparing them for their futures. 

5. Faculty 

The Foundation faculty of renowned working artists and designers is committed to learning and to advancing change for the betterment of the world. They approach students with key educational resources on diverse western and non-western materials in art, design, and architecture, including visual and non-visual examples, history, language, and self-reflection. The curriculum is continuously developed with a significant commitment to promoting cultural literacy, cultural fluency, and social diversity, which is merged with the soft and hard skill sets Otis offers. 

To find out more about Otis College’s Foundation program, please visit this link

For more information about Admissions at Otis College, please visit 

Main image: Marjan Harmozi, left, Area Head of Drawing Form and Drawing Studio, works with a Foundation student; photographed by Danielle Vega/Otis College of Art and Design.