Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why Some People Should Shut Up About Their Alma Mater

The things one stumbles on in random acts of web serendipity! K has written a post about a new newspaper in Bombay, The Mumbai Mirror, which is a bit celebrity and socialite heavy. Curious about this new entrant to the Indian media scene, I browse through the archives, till I stumble on something quite amusing. A Bombay based architect and interior designer, Nisha Jamwal had written to the editors of the paper, protesting at being called a "publicity hound" and potrayed as a vacuous socialite in an earlier report in the paper. What caught my attention however, what this paragraph:

"'Dizzy stilettos’ do not take away from the fact that I am an ward winning interior architect from the Brooks Institute of Design, California, with projects like the Jaipur airport under my belt with several covers to my credit, or a columnist of 15 years in art and design, a worker in the committee of friends of NGMA, a craft activist from Paramparik Karigaar who raised lakhs for India's master craftsmen by chairing the committee, and wrote a book on craft, married happily to a gold medalist from IIM, Ahmedabad, for several years."

(Letter to the Editor, The Mumbai Mirror, October 4, 2005)

I let the weird comment about being happily married to an IIM, Ahmedabad gold medalist pass but what caught my attention was the mention of her alu matter (alma mater for the IIPM-ignorant). I've lived and studied in California for more than 5 years now, and have at least a passing acquaintance with the state of the architecture and design field here, and I've never heard of this institute. Of course given that I'm neither an architect nor a design student, that doesn't mean anything, and so curious about this institute, I decided to search for more information. There was no "Brooks Institute of Design" to be found, but there was certainly a "Brooks Institute of Photography" based in Santa Barbara. And then, further Google search reveals this gem. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? For those too lazy to click on the link, here's the gist:

"California state regulators have placed the Brooks Institute of Photography under a preliminary order to pay "equitable restitution" to students for allegedly misleading them about their employment prospects and earnings potential after graduation."

("Brooks Institute Ordered to Pay Restitution to Students", David Walker, Photo District News, July 28, 2005)

Yes, bless California's overarching bureaucracy, we do possess something called the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, working to ensure that students in the state do not get duped by tall claims of educational institutions. So if indeed there are those who wonder what's the best way to regulate private educational institutions in India, there is one model in existence that can be used for the smaller players in the field.

As for Nisha's columns on "art" and "design", here's a sample.

Update: Pidus of Sanity Starved very correctly points towards Brooks College, Long Beach which offers an associate degree in Interior Design. I've been blissfully ignorant of this place the years I've been here, though I once did look up community colleges in the LA area because I wanted to take up some hobby classes. Perhaps this is the alma mater Ms. Jamwal was referring to? The Brooks College website though does not use the term "Institute of Design" anywhere, and it is almost unheard of to refer to a trade/community college in those terms.
And by the way, apparently even Brooks College was placed on probation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in 2004 and was featured in a "60 Minutes" expose on higher education. That probation was lifted this year after they satisfied the ACCJC that they had complied with their accreditation requirements. However, ACCJC would continue monitoring them and another visit is due in March 2006. Please do read the "60 minutes" piece, it makes for very sobering reading. Who says the US is all that different from India?


Blogger Patrix said...

Ah-ha! so even California has its IIPM :)

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

You can start a part-time job now.

Let me nit-pick here :D

What about the Interior Design program at Brooks College-Long Beach? It is just 20 miles off LA. Also, names at design schools change. Institute of Design is a common term, like Schools of Engineering. There are affiliations in design schools. For example, you say Institute of Design, Art Institute of Chicago even though the Art Insti is just an affiliation because people know Art Insti Chicago, but not really the degree awarding university, IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology)?

But, it's spooky. "Brooks Institute of Design" yeilds only webpages that also contain a certain "Nisha Jamwal" next to them. I bet she didn't think you will read this one!

3:57 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Patrix, I'm sure most countries deal with their own IIPM from time to time. Just the way they deal with such institutes is a world of difference.

Pidus, guilty as charged. I must confess that in my 5 years in this city, I've never heard of this Brooks College. But don't you think calling a tech college an "Institute of Design" is really stretching it quite a bit?

But let me put in this bit of info in the post as well.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

I thought I could count on you doing my homework. So, I stopped at Brooks Long Beach. Thank you!

Okay. Some more. Design industry works on portfolios. Not on degrees. There's a huge (and I wouldn't be surprised if that number was north of 50%) percent who take these vocational/technical degrees and learn design on the job. Especially in good design markets like LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, NY or Austin. The demand is so great, a great majority of them have such basic degrees that teach them basic art skills.

They get a job and, if they are good, develop a good portfolio and score. I wouldn't look at degrees in design. Portfolios decide. It's a creative field. But, I am also looking at whether a designer can be creative consistently and it's not a one-off show. Unless, it's a degree from Pasadena CalTech or an Art Insti Chicago type degree. But, still, at the end of the day, it's the portfolio. It just so happens that really good designers go to Caltech and Art Insti and so a bigger percentage of them have stunning portfolios.

There's a similar Seattle Art Insti here. I don't expect people elsewhere to know about it. But, I do simply because I know some people from there. And, they definitely help each other out, so it has an alumni network too that is a lot stronger than, say, most other community colleges. But, again, Seattle is a good place for design. A similar institute in Des Moines will be pretty useless.

About the CBS documentary. Again, it critiques a design school like any other college. Design students are only as good as their portfolios. Standings in school don't count. Even the school doesn't if you don't have a portfolio.

Students expecting to get into Giorgio Armani on graduation - they must be nuts to not know you can't get into a top design firm without an established portfolio. And that takes years of "experience." :-) Who knows, maybe there was this brilliant student with a brilliant portfolio, who managed an apprentice and then a job with Armani. But, you can have 4.0 GPA and not get hired, simply because you don't have a portfolio that tells the recruiter you have stuff outside school too.

I would totally blame the student if they treated a career in design like "get a degree, get a job."

5:29 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Pidus, here's a partial attempt to answer:

Don't tell me that degrees don't have cache in the design industry, given a choice every design professional would hire a Parsons grad over a trade school alumnus any day. And a talented designer would rather learn on the job than waste his time with the mediocre curriculum of a community college.

As this thread shows, as far as fashion designers are concerned many went to famous schools and others don't have any fashion-related degree at all.


However, I'd be very interested in examples of famous designers (in any field) who went to community/trade schools and then went on to be very successful.

By the way, were you referring to the Pasadena Art Center? As far as I know, Caltech is not really renowned for design.

6:29 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Having said that, let me also state that there are very fine exceptions. Santa Monica College is one of them, considered one of the best community colleges in the area with a good design curriculum too. And there are others. Generally speaking though, a community college/trade school degree wouldn't get you too far in a design career.

And the 60 minutes special was more about misrepresentation to the students, which is unrelated to the issue of whether the students themselves were equipped for a design career.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Yeah, a degree does matter. I mentioned Caltech only because the best designer I know is from there. He is an Industrial Designer, so has a mix of engineering and art for his major. Yes, sorry, Pasadena Art Center. My fault there. Missed a comma.

I don't have much idea about the fashion industry. I was picking up instances from the graphic design, web design, product design and industrial design fields. You have so much demand right from designing packaging labels to what not, there are a lot of them who start small and, after five years, make big waves. Well, that's a relative term. But, there's a good number of them who land up good projects, build a porfolio and compete as well as the big school grads.

Oh, but Art Insti Chicago, or Pasadena Art Center are big deal. They have a wonderful program and what they teach you there is simply stunning. I have seen a lot of work at other programs, including those in India, and they are good but they only look so far as being obvious next steps. I have worked with NID back home. They are a superb bunch, had a lot of fun, learnt a ton. But, it all seemed obvious and all the things someone should be doing.

But top institutes here are mind-bogglingly stunning. With their work, I go "wow, I couldn't figure that one in my dreams" and a lot of it has to do with the faculty there, who are pioneers in their own rights. And, that does reflect in students coming out. An iPod might seem like the greatest product design of this century, but that was the design philosophy in Pasadena and Chicago since the 90s. Every industrial designer coming out of those schools thought of it, just that no other marketing department had the guts to go with it.

But, it's very common in industrial design to come across a stunning designer and find out s/he has just been in the field for like 15-20 years.

Okay, before you crucify me, I am engineering, not design. But on my seven to do wishlist, I would like to attend one of these schools!

8:10 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Oh, I'm not crucifying you at all :). And your points are well taken. Design is such a vast area, that it is impossible to draw general conclusions about what works and what doesn't.

What I do know is that the competition in fashion design, interiors, landscaping, public art, etc. is cut-throat. I have a friend with a degree in graphic design from a great school who decided to switch careers because she thought it was too hard to break into. Perhaps your acquaintances are all exceptionally successful?

Learning on the job is an excellent way to advance in these fields, but a full-fledged associates degree from a not so well regarded trade college would get you nowhere.

8:23 PM  
Blogger www.gypsynan.blogspot.com said...

I thought these days socialte was a compliment, vacuum = heavy duty. Nice to know I was wrong. This is a good sign.Plus, kuch bhi ho, she studied in Amrika and went back and built a resume, wah, good job!

8:36 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Gypsy, I'm totally ok with socialites making a career of being socialites. It is when they try to encroach on the terroir of established talent that it bugs me :).

Hundreds of stellar design students in the country languish for lack of recognition, and our lady is miffed that she's not recognized for writing vacuous columns about the homes of the rich and famous! Some people have a very misplaced sense of entitlement.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Oh yes. It is very competitive. It is very much that you get 10-15 dollars an hour and after a year or two break into the 20+ range if you get good work. A degree might get you in the 20+ range sooner, but it is a lot more time and money too. First few years, you hop from one to another project and, basically, freelance or contract. Full-time positions are very few.

There are a lot of people and you are counting on luck to get good projects. But, then you need money too, so you do whatever you get. It is tough, but then that's how it is. Maybe over the years, you will grind it out. It is also a matter of choice.

By common, I would mean there are enough people who build portfolios through work, but then there are a lot who struggle as well.

Conversely, it is a lot of money if you do make it big :-)

10:13 PM  
Blogger anthony said...

U would make a fine investigative journalist My dear, if at all investigative journalism as a career will exists in a few yrs time, what with this fine example of collective investigative journalism that Blogging gave birth to. because in here, one may afford to miss out a few details, and a fellow blogger will rush into fill in the details. Journalism Collectives at its best. ;-) eh!! Nothing like team work.

10:14 PM  
Blogger K said...

I know that there is a Brooks University (formerly Polytechnic) in Oxford. Anyway, you are really good at dfigging up the muck, I've forwarded your post to a friend of mine in MM, apparently there is no love lost between MM and this person.
But, end of the end MM is brilliant potty reading.

11:02 PM  
Blogger PS said...

Hey, I totally totally love you for this post, coz the journo that I am, I'm invariably cynical towards their 'claims'. Little bit of initiative and investigation on your part has wonderfully proved how fake they really are. And this was just one celebrity, who by the sound of her name, doesn't seem like a top-notch socialite, if you know what I mean. I mean, she must be this extremely wannabe, publicity-starved-but-media-basher-to-show-others kind of a woman...I mean, really!!!! There must be hundreds like her :)

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Strav said...

Breaking News....


Belgium students protest against IIPM and their scum!

Source: TOI & HT (Times Of Idiots & Hillarious Times) :-)

9:26 AM  
Blogger Sagnik Nandy said...

i have asked this before ad know the answer but i will ask again - why aren't you a journalist??? :)

10:57 AM  
Blogger sd said...

After reading your blog ... I fear I am not sure what "research" means...since...If I was even half as dilligent as you are on your posts; I would have graduated long back:)

11:36 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Pidus, when you strike big in design, the money really pours in.

Anthony, thanks for the generous praise. Quite frankly though, I really don't see myself as a journalist, or even my blog as an investigative blog. There are others like K, Amit Varma, Jai Arjun, Hurree Babu,etc. who run very fine and exciting journalistic blogs.

K, go right ahead? And care to inform me (email will do) why MM has no love lost with said lady?

Thanks PS! It's the peculiar nature of celebrity creation in India. I as a reader do not mind reading about people who are famous for partying all the time, but I guess it makes some of them uncomfortable.

Thanks Strav. Have a seen the nudist protest version of that pic :)?

Sagnik, I dated a journalist once and heard all kinds of horror stories.

SD thanks. Well I haven't graduated as well, so there is a gross misapplication of effort somewhere :).

12:16 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Well I read all of them, and they are fine piece of journalism, but you r good in digging up things, or lets say GOOGLE savvy :-)) but unless it is like K who serves us with the news that paper don't, I am not much into reading news blogs. I prefer google news :-D

If you are talking about the boogerdelhidiary , I don't if he is the same coz I know of another blog maintained by the person who happened to have the same [hone no. as the one printed by vulturo, vultoro unknowing had written about the same guy earlier.. in his technoly/splog post. :-D

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anthony said...

I will be updating my Manipur blog today

11:09 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Yes that's what I was referring to, it seems incorrectly. Checked Vulturo's splog post. That's a Manipuri name alright! And the paper matches as well, we have a winner!

But I don't think there's anything wrong with a reporter going undercover to do a story, anthropologists have done it for years.

11:32 PM  
Blogger anthony said...

but seems like the tsory was in wrong taste.. Updated manipur with a nice post

11:48 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

buzz me at anthony_aec on yahoo messenger if u r online..

12:01 AM  
Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

Hi TM,

Your comment on the blog was much appreciated. :) Thanks for listening to me bitch and moan :). Will let you know if I set up a new blog, till then keep tuning in to the old one.

Cya around,

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Time for a new post?

You should keep some posts in reserve, instead of posting so many at one time. That will make for more happy blog readers.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous AB said...

If you ever think of changing tracks in your career, we could open a detective agency together, what say?

2:51 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Pidus, if I could I would. The truth is, I can't plan anything, highly ironic, considering the discipline I inhabit.

AB, detective agency sounds great! We can become the nation's first exclusively Page 3 expose jasoos.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thalassa_mikra , indeed it is the same as Brooks College of Design, but as a design school graduate let me mention that just like interior architecture and interior design are the same, so also The brooks college of design is also called the brooks institute of design. Not having spent life in a giddy daze but having worked bloody hard in life I did take objection to having a nasty article implying that one is a giddy socialite in a paper. I do wonder however why it must have raised your hackles?! NJ

3:02 AM  
Blogger Nisha Jamwal said...

thalassa_mikra , indeed it is the same as Brooks College of Design, but as a design school graduate let me mention that just like interior architecture and interior design are the same, so also The brooks college of design is also called the brooks institute of design. Not having spent life in a giddy daze but having worked bloody hard in life I did take objection to having a nasty article implying that one is a giddy socialite in a paper. I do wonder however why it must have raised your hackles?! NJ

3:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not care for Nisha’s comment that she’s worked “bloody” hard, so have we baby – suck it up!! My opinion of her is that besides prancing around courting any celebrity she can pretty much get her business card passed on to; her value addition to “fashion” in the global sense of the word is a big null. Her MO primarily being to draw in Celebes to promote her me-too crap. Besides, did you notice that one of her self professed accomplishments was marrying an IIM graduate?? I guess wearing her husband’s edu qualifications like arm candy probably helps dignify her premium education at Brook's or shall we say, lack thereof. And, did you guys read how she felt the need to slyly clarify how interior architect and interior designer are one and the same – now peeps, how many times have I read reports that Nisha’s an architect. Man, if she’s an architect, wonder when I’ll read about her designing the next MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) project – my naive guess would be nada! Pre-empting any questions about raising my hackles, hackles relate to animals, and not being part of the socialite animal farm, I profess ignorance. Besides, isn't blogging all about being social and sharing the love - why! it can almost qualify as a sport.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Sanjiv Khanna said...

Gawd, she must be one important woman if all of you can spend reams of pages just analyzing her with the excuse of bashing her, her so called claims, her thoughts, so all you guys, with the excuse of catching her out on tall claims are majorly enjoying analyzing her and discussing her every thought and statement!! So much for criticizm!

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

designing mumbai

Here's some useful info on designing mumbai
which you might be looking for. The url is: http://www.jaldisearch.com/

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Kimberly Sanchez said...

wow, i'd like to see who is this 'giddy' gal who has so many people spending so much time discussing her , her husband, her life, even her college aka university seems to have gained fame with its name being analysed just by having her in it. And that too an architect, not a film star!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! More power to architects!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

3:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This crazy lunatic Mumbai bitch attacked me, when I found that she is a Bansal (Dalit) and went to night school in Beachport. See the raving and ranting attack. She is married 2X, and the 2nd Kashmiri Jamwal Rajput in wheel chair bound and his family blames her that she is a witch!

Nisha JamVwal to me
show details Jul 29

I wonder what I might have done to make you feel so virulently against me?

I mean some of what you say is indeed true, but in life’s ups and downs, difficult experiences do happen. Is that a reason to be so nasty and write such awful comments? Have I ever done something to offend you or harm you that you take some natural life accidents and make such an awful mess of it all, to try to denigrate me?

Would you like to come up front and discuss this objectively?

Firstly I did not do night school but was an award winning interior architectural student at Long Beach at the Brooks College of Design in California. If you are willing to come upfront I would be happy to show you my awards and certificates and mark sheet where I have a perfect 4.0 average. I topped in all my years there and won the American Women In Architecture award.

Secondly, yes I was a Bansal, and it is not a scheduled class or tribe, it is the same sect/ class as an Agarwal, Goenka, Jindal, and Birla. Not that if I was from a scheduled tribe or class would it have made me ashamed of being so.

Thirdly yes we did have a painful accident but how is that my fault? That’s life?!

Fourthly, I did have a parting with a man several years ago, not in Calcutta but in California and later Delhi, I chose to end it, there is paperwork to prove that it was I who ended it and he wanted to make things work. It just so happens he was obsessively possessive and became violent, was seen by a shrink called Dr Thate at KEM hospital who diagnosed him 'lacking impulse control' and with an 'anger management problem' that had had serious repercussions for me at that time.

Five, my fashion has been showcased at Ogaan, Ensemble, Kimaya, Collage, and all the leading stores in India, why would you call it names? Taste is relative isnt it? As for a showroom yes its true I do not have a flagship store and dont wish to have the admin to handle. Also I do have an office you could visit if you come forward and see for yourself?

Six, no I have never ever hired a pr person/ company, do your checking out before you comment. If you wish to attack atleast find out facts. All my projects have been publicised because perhaps they deserved to be? I have dedicated my life to art and design, they are my children, my focus and my life!

Seven, I have never claimed to be a Princess, yes I have married a man of Royal lineage, this too can be proven !People called me princess much before I made this match. Even in America my yearbook called me a princess! So much for me claiming to be one!

All of the things you hit out at me with, I have admitted in an eight page cover story in the Society Magazine, even the part you’ve mentioned about very annoyed in-laws. So what?

How all of this is twisted out of shape and made so awful by you? Why don’t you give me your address and number and I shall be happy to discuss this with you or we could go legal? I would be happy to have my lawyer Mrinalini Deshmukh take this discussion further as I am a very genial, well adjusted person who has never had this kind of reaction from anyone before in my life. I am a straight shooter used to things that are most transparent and honest. Let’s come forward and discuss this. It is indeed easy to be virulent behind the safety of e-mail and assumed names!


Nisha JamVwal

Nisha JamVwal
Nisha JamVwal Design
*Art *Interior Architect *Couture* Columnist*Compere* NGO Craft

Nisha JamVwal
Nisha JamVwal Design
*Art *Interior Architect *Couture* Columnist*Compere* NGO Craft

Reply Forward Nisha is not available to chat

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What a coward you are ! Shame on you for what you did !

After all these years, the lady has actually shown that she has achieved much more than you EVER will.

7:41 AM  
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11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much ado about nothing I say!
My gawd leave her alone will you?
very fact you keep on and on and on shows how important she seems to be anyway! You are obviously obsessed by this dame! Getta life man, sour grapes methinks............

11:12 PM  
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