Though many O’More College of Design students were initially skeptical about transferring to Belmont, they are now getting used to life at the much larger university.
Belmont acquired the Franklin-based college in April, and its students transferred to Belmont for the fall semester.
“We had come a long way with a small property and a small town. But the truth is we couldn’t really grow there,” said Director of O’More Shari Fox. “The opportunities were becoming fewer and farther between.”
The new O’More School of Design at Belmont — housed on the third and fourth floors of the Hitch Building — is now part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts and includes three majors: fashion design, fashion merchandising and interior design.
With this transition, O’More students and faculty gained access to resources and opportunities like student housing, study abroad, upgraded facilities and more general education options. However, they’ve also had to take on new challenges like convocation, living away from home and going from a school of about 150 students to one of more than 8,000.
Most concerning for many O’More students has been the addition of new degree requirements. Students must now take BELL Core courses, and some are concerned they won’t be able to graduate on time as a result.
“Because of the whole merger, and all of these extra classes I have to do, I’ve been told I have to take an extra semester or a bunch of classes over the summer if I want to graduate on time,” said design communications major Hannah Hutchinson.
Fashion design major Chloe Baur is also concerned about the extra course requirements, but she recognizes that the merger gave her some great opportunities as well, she said.
“There’s so many more resources here. There’s a bigger campus, and I’m meeting people that I wouldn’t have met before,” Baur said. “There’s a bunch of pros and cons.”
For design communications major Rainey Ibbotson, Belmont’s larger community and location in Nashville has helped with finding work in her field, she said.
“A lot more doors have been opened for me. I’ve met a lot of really great people, done some networking and got a new job in Nashville as a graphic design intern,” Ibbotson said. “It was tough going from really small to bigger but it’s been great so far.”
One major benefit that’s now available to O’More students is the option to live on campus.
“We didn’t have housing at our college, and that was a barrier for a lot of students to enroll. It kept a lot of students from attending O’More because they needed a place to live,” Fox said.
Denise Beckett, a fashion design major, has appreciated the convenience of being able to live on campus, she said.
“The space is amazing,” she said. “I like having roommates. It’s like a home away from home.”
But some students, like Hutchinson, miss having the opportunity to live at home.
“It’s been rough. I live in Spring Hill, which is about 45 minutes to an hour away from here. I used to live at home, but I’m not a big driver so I’m living on campus right now,” Hutchinson said. “I am getting used to it, but it’s just a really weird transition.”
Along with the ability to live on campus, some O’More students also gained new opportunities to study abroad and study away.
“I’m very impressed by the Belmont study abroad program,” Fox said. “Designers need to experience the world. That’s how they grow, and their inspirations and concepts are driven by that sort of thing. So that is huge.”
While they’re studying at Belmont, though, O’More students and faculty also have access to much larger facilities than they had at the Franklin campus.
Rebecca Moore, the chair of the interior design department, oversaw the renovations to the Hitch Building. She had walls knocked down to allow for more natural light and made the space as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
The larger space is better for accommodating current O’More students, but it also gives the design school the chance to grow in the future.
“We have the ability to grow here at Belmont that we did not have as a free-standing small college in Franklin,” Fox said. “I really think there’s no reason why O’More school can’t be a real powerhouse design school at Belmont.”
And in spite of the natural difficulties that came along with the transition, O’More students and faculty have largely felt welcomed by the Belmont community.
“I was kind of shocked at all of the professional people that are here and kind of the alumni. I’m not sure about graphic alumni or design alumni, but it’s just been kind of eye opening and I know that it’ll be better for me in the long run,” Hutchinson said. “It’s not as bad as I thought which is really nice. It’s just really crazy and takes a lot of getting used to.”
For Fox, the opportunities and resources at Belmont were a huge part of the decision to merge with the university. But the welcoming attitude of the community was a pleasant surprise, she said.
“There’s a real culture of warmth and graciousness, and we have felt so welcomed. The people have been so good to us since we’ve been here,” Fox said. “It has exceeded expectations.” – – Video produced and edited by Abigail Bowen and filmed by Abigail Bowen and Colby Crosby. Article written by Bronte Lebo with contributing reporting from Reese Williams, Abigail Bowen and Madeline Leesman.