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Web Design + New Media Students Meet Potential Employers at Fall 2014 Winter Portfolio Review

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L–R) Liz Lantz, Tiwah Griffith (Gap Inc./Old Navy), Ryan Medeiros, Andrea Pimentel, Becky Barton (ROI DNA) and Colin Sebestyen. Photo by Bob Toy.

Convivial conversation filled Suite 301 at The Cannery on Thursday, December 18, 2014, when the School of Web Design + New Media held their third and largest Winter Portfolio Review—an event both Academy of Art University students and faculty likened to speed dating.

Taking their places along one side of a series of tables, 26 graduating and 15 midpoint M.F.A. and B.F.A. students displayed their work on laptops and tablets, while representatives from companies like Google, PayPal and Old Navy bounced from station to station to see if a match might be made.

 

“The opportunity to talk to the students directly and get a visual of their work is great,” said Tiwah Griffith, a representative from Old Navy, “and also to get a little more depth and context to know who they are and what they can bring to the table.”

From website designs to typography, graphic designs and mobile applications, portfolio projects varied in style and content. Midpoint B.F.A. student Paul Plale showed a website describing the similarities between Buddhism and punk rock, which he said was inspired by Japanese Sumi-e calligraphy, while graduating M.F.A. student Leslie Mathews presented a management system for patients with chronic illnesses called “Tend.” “It uses the combination of a mobile app and a touchscreen wristband to help patients manage their medication, track symptoms, and stay motivated by earning points for charitable donations,” she explained.

 

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Scott Brookshire (B.F.A.) and Darwin Lui (PayPal). Photo by Bob Toy.

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Thor Sveinsson (B.F.A.) and Derek Fidler (Monkey Inferno). Photo by Bob Toy.

The visitors came from top-level corporations and startups, many of them representing dream jobs for a new graduate, yet students like Divya Kotwani found the atmosphere to be relaxed. “I love it! I love the pace,” said the graduating B.F.A. student. “Everyone is really nice.”

Kotwani noted that some of the guests were themselves Academy alumni. “I call it the circle of life,” said the Academy’s Industry Outreach & Curriculum Specialist Gregory Mar. “Our graduates go into the industry and they know to come back because that’s where the talent is. If they’re looking for people with skills they know to come here first.”

 

While professional skill assessment was certainly on the minds of many in attendance, industry reps also mentioned the benefit of being able to get a glimpse into the personalities of each student. “We hire people,” said Chief Instigator at UE Group Tony Fernandes. “We’re looking at the raw ingredients of people, not necessarily their skills. Students can learn skills, it’s much harder to find people with the combination of ingredients that will be successful for us.”

A new initiative at this winter’s event connected a handful of students with companies like MAZ Digital, an online publishing company based in New York and India, and the security management company Ping Identity, which is headquartered in Denver, through live web conferencing facilitated by Adobe Connect.

“In our global economy, it’s important to connect our graduates to jobs on a national and global scale,” said Director of the School of Web Design + New Media Ryan Medeiros. “Right now we do a great job connecting students with jobs in the Bay Area—and of course the economy here is red-hot for what we do—but many of our students are taking classes exclusively online, or are looking to go back to their home city or country after graduation. This provides us with a unique opportunity to implement ways to connect these talented recent graduates to potential employers outside of the Bay Area.”

 

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Ben Levy (B.F.A.) and Citrix Industry Representatives. Photo by Bob Toy.