Student Features

Sophomore Reports College Experience Through Art

After a national search that attracted some 700 applicants, Rebecca Patterson ’17 of Framingham, Mass., was selected to be one of 21 students to document her undergraduate experience through “21 Voices.”

Rebecca Patterson

A research program designed to help employees of Cengage Learning, Inc. – an educational content, technology and services company for higher education and K-12 – “21 Voices” aims to understand and emphasize with college students as it gains insights into their daily lives.

A double major in fine and performing arts/music and arts management, Patterson not only writes about her experiences as an MCLA student, she creates videos about her day-to-day life to chronicle her challenges and successes on campus.

Her activities include painting scenes from around the campus and the surrounding community to illustrate her experiences.

One of the reasons Patterson decided to participate was the option of using art as a method of reporting. MCLA is “a whole new world,” she said, “and North Adams is adorable! I’ve painted a lot of it.”

The beautiful foliage found in the Berkshires, as well as plentiful opportunities to see art and attend a variety of musical events are among Patterson’s favorite things about MCLA. She also enjoys hearing from the many guest speakers who come to campus, as well as just hanging out with “wonderful people” – her classmates.

“It’s a small school, but there is so much you can do, and so many resources are available to you,” Patterson explained. “I feel like there’s no limit to what I can do at this school, and afterward. If anything, there’s more opportunity than at other schools because of the size.”

She chose to attend MCLA in part because of the campus’s close proximity to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), where she hopes to work one day, and the professors, who encourage her.

“[They] believe in MCLA and really care about their students. That’s why it’s such a great place,” Patterson said.

Rebecca Patterson art

Each month, Patterson speaks with a “21 Voices” program researcher to discuss her submissions, answer questions, and explore various topics of interest. She and the other participants also respond to intermittent surveys that allow researchers to more deeply explore emerging themes.

Researchers also spend a day each quarter with students to observe their lives in person. This may include during the first week of class, the middle of the semester, or the week of finals. In addition, Patterson will attend an annual summit with the research team.

Although she views her participation in “21 Voices” as a good opportunity to talk about her college experience, Patterson most looks forward to attending the annual summit, where she expects to meet the other students involved in the project, and also learn from them.

Students who participate in “21 Voices” are drawn from different regions, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds from across the United States. They represent a mix of different majors, as well as academic and extracurricular interests.

For more information, go to or​.

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