Lessons From Emerson

During my first visit to Emerson College, I almost turned to my little black dog and told him we weren’t at Boston College anymore. Then I remembered that I don’t have a little black dog and that I ought to invest in some medication to prevent still more delusions, including the delusion that a reference to The Wizard of Oz in the opening of my column will not come across as cheap and aggressively overused.

Suffice it to say, Emerson and BC are very different places. Our suburban campus is allegedly the home of all things bro. Their urban atmosphere near the Common is seen as a hipster haven. These stereotypes, however, do not adequately distinguish between Emerson and BC. A more apt way to look at the differences between the schools is to examine the way they relate to the world.

On March 8, Emerson launched the week-long series of events that marks the grand opening of its new campus in Los Angeles. Emerson Los Angeles (ELA) is housed in a 10-story building that looks like it was constructed out of a techie’s fantasy world. The $85 million building includes high-tech screening rooms, performance studios, editing and mixing labs, and sufficient dormitory space for a little over 200 students.

ELA is a representation of Emerson’s education focus. It will connect students to the city that often becomes the home of people seeking careers in television and media. Kevin Bright, an Emerson graduate, is the founding director of ELA and serves as a prime example of that progression in the industry. After being educated in Boston, he founded popularity and acclaim as the executive producer of Friends,which was filmed in Burbank, Calif.

At BC, studying outside of the University is, of course, not uncommon. One does not have to talk to many students to hear a myriad of destinations-London, Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, St. Petersburg-but not L.A. BC does offer semester-long programs within the U.S., including one at Georgetown and another at Syracuse, but the focus is certainly on sending students to other countries, not other U.S. cities.

The purpose of studying abroad is to encounter different cultures and to have strong experiences. A semester in L.A., some might say, will keep a BC student within a finite American context and cost him or her the chance to see the world from a new perspective. This suggests, however, that all American cities are somehow the same-if you have lived and studied in one, you have lived and studied in them all.

But different cities in the U.S. have distinct identities that can contribute to a student’s worldview. Before coming to BC, I was fairly confident that New York City was the only urban environment one needed to see in order to understand an American city. This was proven decidedly untrue through my experiences in Boston, and I am confident that a semester in L.A. would further open my eyes to entirely different aspects of American culture.

It does not seem likely that BC will suddenly build a multi-million dollar campus in California to cozy up next to ELA, and it would not make much sense to do so anyway, but it is important to remember that one does not need to travel to Europe to encounter a new and strong experience.

Perhaps BC students can learn something from our friends at Emerson besides how to have increasingly offbeat music taste. While it is my own intention to spend a semester in London next year, I can see the value of spending time studying in another American city. Chicago or Seattle might be nice, so long as I can bring my little black dog to let him know when we are encountering an entirely different place.

About Ryan Towey 55 Articles
Ryan Towey was the Metro Editor for The Heights in 2014. If he's no longer covering Greater Boston, he probably moved back to New Jersey for some bizarre reason. Either way, you can still follow him on Twitter @Ryan_towey.