By Krista Thorp '15
Holly McCormack is the new Dean of Field Work Term, but she isn’t totally new to Bennington. She worked in the Field Work Term office before Tammy Fraser arrived in 2003. When McCormack left, she was hired at the Kripalu Center to create a semester-intensive program for college students to learn how to live holistically. She then worked with elementary schools, helping teachers integrate social and emotional learning in the classroom.
As the first Dean of Field Work Term, it is her job to further integrate FWT with the Plan Process and the rest of the curriculum. But McCormack isn’t planning on making any significant changes to the program itself. “The luxury that we’ve been afforded from the work that Tammy and the Field Work Term team has done is that we have now been able to say, we have programs in place, we know what students’ needs are when they’re preparing and in their Field Work Term and when they come back, and from that very solid place we have the opportunity to say, ‘If we wanted to think about how to integrate FWT more into the curriculum of the college and the students’ educational experience, what might that look like?’”
Students may remember the sophomore FWT workshops that took place in the fall, which were presented with the intention of helping students who were starting their Plan Process think more about Field Work Term in relation to the rest of their studies here. That goal will be reflected in new programs, though it has yet to be determined what they might be. “It could mean working with faculty to help them think about how they can integrate connections to what students might be doing for FWT in the fall or spring courses,” said McCormack, “It could look like credited courses in the fall or spring terms about how to prepare and reflect on their experience when they get back, there are a number of ways integration could happen. It could mean that there is a more explicit role that FWT plays in the Plan Process: with your Plan committee, everything is kind of on the table, and we are having many conversations on campus to hear what people think.”
There is a clear thread between the work McCormack did in her time away from Bennington and the work she plans to do here creating a more integrative, holistic relationship between Field Work Term and the rest of the school year. “I think there are skills in the holistic field that relate to core questions that everybody has, especially when they graduate and start building a life for themselves. In terms of Field Work Term, there are some hard and fast learning objectives, and then there are some other learning objectives that are about, ‘Who am I?’ and, ‘How did that change when I introduced work into the equation?’ I find this a fascinating conversation, and as someone who graduated college, it’s a conversation that I hear constantly. People are interested in how you find balance as a passionate person in the world.”
It’s a bit of a change this year to have an old staff member return while so many familiar faces are leaving Bennington. What was it that made McCormack come back? “I just started missing working with college students. It had been four years, so I called Liz back up and said, ‘Hey, I would love to hear what’s going on at Bennington,’ and she so graciously gave me that meeting.” McCormack hoped to return to Bennington in some way but not thinking that something resembling her old position would be an option: “It was just so fabulous because I didn’t think coming back that FWT would be on the table.” McCormack is excited about what lies ahead and excited just to be back at Bennington. “I love Field Work Term,” she said, “and my experience working with Bennington students was a highlight of my professional career.”