“What’s PAT?”

“I didn’t even know that was a thing here.”

“So it’s not through the College of Engineering?”

Whenever I tell people that I’m in the Performing Arts Technology department, they look at me like I told them that I just saw a leprechaun. 

The PAT department is within the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and is extremely selective. I went through multiple essays, an interview, an audition and had to submit a portfolio in order to be accepted into the program. Despite all of this, my peers in other departments don’t take my major seriously.

“So you’re just learning how to become a SoundCloud rapper?”

“You should’ve stuck to pre-med.”

“You’re gonna be so broke when you’re older, make sure you marry rich.”

Hearing comments like these makes my blood boil. Each major here at the University of Michigan has difficult courses that students have to take in order to fulfill their degree requirements. My degree doesn’t require organic chemistry or Stats 250, but that doesn’t make my degree any “easier” or worth any less than a pre-medicine one. 

My degree requires me to learn physics, various levels of calculus, music theory, musicology, piano, upper-level writing and computer programming, all while taking specific PAT courses. So, no. I am not just learning how to be a SoundCloud rapper. I am learning how to become an audio engineer.  

This department isn’t as niche as people think it is. Sound engineering is needed wherever there is noise. Audio engineers are needed to mix and master your favorite songs and podcasts and to edit the audio of your favorite movies and television shows. Aside from entertainment, audio engineers are needed when building cars, constructing auditoriums and testing audio equipment like headphones and microphones.

Being in the PAT department has allowed me to gain extremely valuable skills. With more than one project-based class every semester, there is always art that needs to be created, allowing me to develop useful time management skills. With such small class sizes, we are encouraged to collaborate with each other, both for projects and social activities. This has allowed me to strengthen my communication skills and grow as a leader. 

The PAT department has let me find a sense of community here at the University of Michigan. Being at such a large university can be overwhelming, especially when trying to make friends, but the PAT department has given me such a close-knit community. Every semester, I know that one of my friends from the PAT department will be in at least two to three of my classes, which makes school more enjoyable and less stressful. All of us PAT students are required to gather for PAT 400 every semester, which is a seminar where we all share what we’ve been working on outside of class and give each other feedback. Having a class like this strengthens our bond and makes us feel safe and comfortable with each other.

To be part of such an immersive program is indescribable. While maintaining a traditionally structured form of education, I’m also able to branch out and explore new ways to create and collaborate, gaining the necessary skills to join the workforce and valuable leadership skills. I appreciate the concern, but I won’t need to marry rich or pursue another degree path. I’m perfectly fine being in the PAT department.


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