Each year, the Early College Program Summer Institute (ECPSI) brings students from around the world to downtown Chicago to expand skills in art, design, and writing. Working closely with our renowned faculty and inspiring teaching assistants, ECPSI students leave our program with great portfolio pieces and a renewed passion for their artistic practice.

Check out some of our previous student experiences below.



Conversation with ECPSI Alum and Current SAIC Student Georgia Notin

Georgia Notin
Georgia Notin

ECPSI: Why did you choose to attend ECPSI in Continuing Studies (CS) at SAIC?

GN: I became interested in ECPSI after attending National Portfolio Day in San Francisco. Though this was a major opportunity for me to receive feedback on my portfolio, the experience left me questioning what was lacking in my practice. After talking to the representatives from SAIC, the ECPSI program seemed like good way to revitalize my work and allow me to get some insight on if art school would be right for me.

ECPSI: What do you feel are the strengths of the ECPSI program?

GN: The main strengths of the program are its ability to fully immerse students in their artistic practice over the course of just a few weeks, the amazing facilities and resources available to students, and the instructors' willingness to encourage critical thinking and experimentation through making.

Attending the program is what ultimately convinced me that art school was the right decision for me. Until that point in my life, I had never had the opportunity to experience being fully immersed in an artistic environment like SAIC. Entering the program unsure of whether I wanted to attend college at all, I left more challenged and excited about my art practice than I had ever been before. I found that I loved the new and dynamic ways in which the program challenged me. Once back home I immediately transformed my parent's garage into a studio, creating a whole new portfolio over the course of three months.

ECPSI: How did your studies in ECPSI help you to do what you are doing now?

GN: It helped me redefine what my artistic practice could be. The challenges presented to me by my instructors helped me to fully realize the potential of my ideas and new and exciting ways in which they could be communicated. Though simple, this expansion of my ideas of what art could be inspired and motivated to continue to pursue art seriously. As a result of my time spent in ECPSI's sculpture program, my work has made a huge shift from more traditional figural and still life studies to mixed-media sculpture and installation.


Conversation with ECPSI Alum Alejandro Nodarse (Designed Objects)

Images of Alejandro's jewelry designs from ECPSI course, Designed Objects
Images of Alejandro's jewelry designs from ECPSI course, Designed Objects

ECPSI: What do you feel are the strengths of ECPSI?

AN: The program provided an incredible framework for a true college experience. It has an array of courses, which provides a diversity of students, backgrounds, and ideas. As a student in the program, I was able to benefit from all that SAIC had to offer. Most importantly, the facilities were high-tech and the professors were fantastic.

ECPSI: How did your experience with ECPSI faculty impact you and your work?

AN: Karma [instructor] encouraged incredible conversations in and out of the classroom and taught with an inspiring passion. It was an incredible opportunity to speak with her on concepts far beyond the average high school's. She also guided me in my work by challenging me to re-evaluate my design process. I have been designing and making jewelry for years, but it was Karma who pushed me to re-examine the archetype of "jewelry," which adds a new level of meaning and importance to what I create.

ECPSI: What is the most important thing you learned from studying in the ECPSI program?

AN: I learned the importance of ideas—the necessity of meaning and intention—that accompany all great works of art design.

ECPSI: How did your studies in ECPSI help you to do what you are doing now?

AN: My studies introduced me to multiple new technologies, like laser-cutting and 3D printing that I continue to use. The program has inspired me to continue in my field because now I fully recognize its importance. I am starting a business, Raw Jewelry, with the designs I created during my two weeks at SAIC.

ECPSI: Any additional comments?

AN: I had an incredible time at SAIC; I did not want to leave! Being surrounded by creative individuals from a variety of disciplines was exciting and empowering. Learning about your passion in class, staying up late in the studio brainstorming, exploring the city of Chicago with friends, swimming in Lake Michigan—I could not imagine a better summer program.


Conversation with ECPSI Alum Nina Gregg (Fashion at the Edge)

Portrait of Nina working in her studio
Portrait of Nina working in her studio

ECPSI: What do you feel are the strengths of ECPSI?

NG: The class offerings are unique. Having been to other pre-college programs in prior summers, this was an exciting opportunity. The inspiring conversations with our teacher, Cheryl Pope, and the subject of the class changed my thinking and perception of my everyday experiences.

ECPSI: What was the most important thing you learned?

NG: What impacted me the most was learning how to approach a project from different points of view. It gave me so many more solutions to consider and stronger conceptual ideas. Also, it showed me how to get through the process of developing a project and challenging myself.

ECPSI: What words of wisdom do you have to offer current and future ECPSI students?

NG: Try new classes and subjects that you haven't tried before. Learn to manage your time and stay organized. Find a balance between working hard, relaxing, and having fun with your new friends.

ECPSI: Any additional comments?

NG: It was nice to make friends from all over the world. It gave me a good idea of what it would be like to go to SAIC for college, by experiencing it first hand. Also by being in Chicago, I have a good idea of what it would be like to live in a big, but friendly, city.