Blown Out

The Administrative Office Building (AOB) -- Photo from Hallmark's Facility Website

I’m going to try to write this in the first person as though it was the end of Tuesday around 5pm after meeting with the school staff and faculty. I know it’s really started Thursday morning, and I’ve travelled across a continent and was sitting peacefully in SeaTac for the beginning, but I thought it would be a good exercise to recall the experience. It will be long and likely somewhat cathartic to write. In fact, I finished it after my return to Juneau. Please keep an eye out for a future post of that Tuesday evening. It was the yang to my yin of a day…

[begin tuesday narrative, 5pm]

Wow. I don’t think I’m cut out for this.

My head is spinning, and the only thing that my focus remains fixed to is that I’d like to be with my wife; just able to relax and breathe and feel safe. Every time I try to think of my day and what I learned, I’m brought to the brink of tears. None have fallen, but I’m pretty sure my tear-ducts have been working diligently in preparation. I really hope this emotional storm brewing will redirect soon and is solely powered by the fact that I haven’t eaten since 7:15 this morning. I’m munching on a protein cookie that I had in my car, so maybe that’ll do the trick.

It started well enough. Last night after catching my zzz’s, I was planning to head out into the Turners Falls area to see the lay of the land. As it turned out, I slept through my original alarm time of 5:45 (I had set it to PM rather than AM) but fortunately still woke up early at 6:45 or so. I gathered my things, prepared for my day of learning, and eventually made it to the Admin Office Building (lovingly called the AOB by those at the school.)

I figured that it was best to do my own meanderings prior to my appointment at 1030 with Brooke. Luckily at 745, there was a car in the parking lot suggesting that the building might be open! Being the enthusiastic and curious type, I stepped in and met the receptionist Caitlin*. Not being one to waste time, I got to asking about the school and her experience with it. Of course she had good things to say. She was super helpful and gave a couple of places that I was to definitely see: Poet’s Seat Tower and the Hope and Olive Restaurant. She printed out the directions and I continued perusing the campus to see the lay of the land.

The AOB is nicely adorned, and comes off a little high falutin’ for my style preference, though I’m definitely a t-shirt and jeans sort of guy so I’ll always weigh in that way. The halls had all been decorated with student work, and there was a media panel (kind of a sideways flatscreen TV) that showed some of the best-in-class images of the year. After seeing what I could in that building, I headed over to the Educational Center (called the EC or simply “school” by folks) – it’s the meat and potatoes of the facilities, though there is a classroom in the AOB too.

The Educational Center (EC) -- Photo from Hallmark's Facility Website

The EC was fairly empty when I first arrived; there were a few students working in the Design Lab** (DL) and a family milling about waiting for the upcoming portfolio review process which I guess didn’t start right at 8am like a few had thought. I struck up a conversation with Liz’s father who was there to see the fruits of her labor over the last year. He had good things to say, but of course commented on the significant expense that he’s enduring for his daughter. After chatting with him for a bit, Liz joined in, and eventually directed me to talk with a few other students who were around. Collin, MoJo, and more.

I then got to sit in on the first Portfolio Review of the year. Pretty neat process; the review board was an amazingly talented bunch – including a pulitzer prize winner, pro portrait photog (for 53 years running), and another commercial photographer with high ranking credentials. Their insight was truly significant, and I couldn’t help but wish that I could sit and watch all of the portfolios being reviewed to gain their perspectives.

At 10:30 I headed back over to the AOB to meet Brooke. She is a very friendly admissions rep for the school, and was a pleasant tour guide. I guess she’s been with Hallmark for nearly 4 years. We looked at a couple extra rooms at the AOB and then proceeded back to the school for a tour that more-or-less encompassed my earlier walkabout around campus. Before leaving the AOB, she asked if I had brought some work for a faculty work review so that she could set up a future appointment for the day; I admitted that I had no clue that was coming, but could likely produce some work as I had my laptop and an internet connection.

Through the course of our tour, I made some attempts to get a few of my questions answered from my list (see previous post) but I found it tough to dig into the more significant questions – in many instances she suggested that I speak with another staff who had been their longer, Tammy. After meandering the grounds and sitting in on another portfolio review, we went back to the AOB to meet up with Tammy.

Tammy is a great personality. She’s been dubbed the Mom of campus; someone you can access 24/7 for all manners of requests. We first sat down with Kevin in Financial Aid and I had the opportunity to reiterate my disinterest in utilizing loans for school. After that quick meeting, Tammy and I stepped into a meeting area of sorts to bang through the list. It was around 12:30, I suppose. It was nice to just sit and fire away question after question, but I found it somewhat challenging that many of my questions didn’t get straight answers. I presume that is largely because I ask hard questions, but as it’s an expensive program, I still felt compelled to inquire about every aspect that I could.

Our question-and-answer session went on for 3-4 hours and I made it through my entire list. During the session, we took a break to allow me to meet with David Turner (links here and here) for my work review. I don’t think there could have been a more shocking personality to sit down with at the school. He is a long-time, well-established, very talented fashion photographer who has been Ralph Lauren’s personal photographer for 15 years. He has worked in Milan and NYC, and without batting an eyelash tell you about the $50,000 shoot that they had last weekend. For me, being the small-town personality and looking for deep, authentic relationships, this felt a bit out of place. Naturally, David is an immensely talented photographer, but as I commented to a couple of friends, I gathered that he was more of a New York high-rise commercial fashion personality than anything else. Needless to say, my head was spinning a bit. After showing me a bit of his portfolio online, we took a look at my site, and immediately, I felt out of place. Obviously our style of photography was very different, but more than that, I didn’t (and still don’t) know that I had a passion for the type of images and personality that he had to offer as a faculty. Fortunately, he had to get back to the portfolio reviews as the dissonance in our styles was reverberating in my head. Yikes.

Okay, phew, the work review happened, and I’m still alive. Back to the question and answers.

We ground through the rest of my list and then changed course to talk about housing. Where her capacity to answer my questions about the school was strong, you could tell that she excelled at finding the right fit for students with the various landlords available. She rattled through the housing list noting great locations and tenant experiences while I furiously jotted notes to the best of my ability after the multi-hour info-overload that I had just endured. Maybe if I could have just done the Matrix style learning, that’d have worked better for all of this.

She handed me off to Vern who works at campus and his wife is a landlord for a nearby property. We he grabbed his keys and off we went to check out the apartment (which I’ll cover some of my apartment experiences later in another post).

After our tour, I said my final goodbyes to the staff, including Tammy who let me know that if I was interested in coming back to campus in the morning that I should call to have an escort over to the school. An escort? Yes. Didn’t I meander around school for 2+ hours this morning without an escort? Yes. Do I understand why they’d opt for that kind of dynamic? No clue. They explained that it had something to do with security and the fact that there is lots of equipment at school, but frankly, during my earlier personal meanderings, I didn’t notice much in the way of security, nor concern. Strange if you ask me. Oh well, after the full day of mental-overload, it was time to get out of there.

In the timeless words of Shaggy (from Scooby Doo), “ZOINKS!!!

*I actually have no idea how her name is spelled. A younger gal who lives in a nearby area and started working for the campus within the last year.
**It might have been called something else, but basically it was a classroom of around 80 iMacs.

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