by Jon diVenti, Department Chair, Digital Media, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design
With the influx of demand for digital artists in the workforce, Digital Media has been garnering increasing interest from prospective students. Despite the growing number of employment opportunities for creatives, the rapid evolution and steep competition in the various digital media professions can be an intimidating prospect for students preparing to enter the industry.
However, there are a few ways for students to gain an edge over the competition, one of which is an internship or mentorship experience. Here at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, we recognize the unique value of “real world,” hands-on professional interaction for students before graduation. Therefore, the college makes it a requirement for graduation that each student participate in either an internship or mentorship. So what is the difference between an internship and a mentorship? Are they the same thing? The internship experience differs from a mentorship, but both have their distinct advantages.
An internship affords students the opportunity to work on-site for a particular studio or agency working on actual professional projects under the guidance of an assigned supervisor. For a period of several weeks, the student (intern) will be immersed in the daily activity and culture of the workplace. The student will employ the skill sets they have accumulated to that point in their education and learn new skills, software, etc. In this environment the intern will often be exposed to processes and opportunities they were previously unaware of, perhaps steering their career goals into exciting new directions.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” PCA&D works hard to make sure that our students are involved in the production process, not merely involved in mundane office tasks.
A mentorship is a bit different. In short, it is personal! In this case, the student (mentee) is connected with an experienced professional currently working in the mentee’s prospective area of discipline (animation, 3-D modeling, motion graphics, visual development, etc). Once connected, they will work together sometimes via Skype, e-mails, phone calls, Google Hangouts and screen/file sharing to develop a project for the mentee to complete based on the his or her current knowledge and skill level.
Students entering the professional world with a mentorship experience under their belts may hold a significant advantage over students who have not had such an opportunity. Not only will they learn practical “insider” tips and techniques specific to their individual disciplines, but they will often have the unique (and possibly even more valuable) fortune of learning from the mentor’s personal journey ̶ the mistakes, triumphs and things they wish they knew at the outset of their careers. This personal interaction between the student and mentor can be priceless.
This past summer, PCA&D students connected with an impressive list of professionals whose resumes feature some of the industry’s top animation, gaming and VFX studios including DreamWorks Animation, The Third Floor, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Disney Interactive and others. These mentors have worked on such high profile films as Big Hero 6, Avatar 2, Frozen, Trolls, etc. … and games such as “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3”, Bioshock Infinite, Darksiders 2 and others.
In my 10 years of teaching at the college level, I have had the privilege of frequently witnessing the benefits of the internship and mentorship experience. As PCA&D’s Digital Media program continues to develop and grow I am excited to see where these connections will lead!
Bailey Tice, Senior Digital Media, Shrewsbury PA:
My mentor has been Jack Corpening and the character I have been modeling is named Romy the Witch by Courtney Brenek. Being in this mentorship has been refreshing and a change from how school has been run. One-on-one with a professional is both terrifying and reassuring of how much I want to work in the world of 3D modeling and it has been a wonderful experience so far. Jack Corpening has been patient and direct with his teaching and that alone makes this worthwhile in my opinion. The character I get to model is super fun as well.
Amanda Rivera-Segundo, Senior Digital Media, Mount Joy, PA:
My mentor is Paige Lauren Carter and with her I’ve been working on bringing a 2D concept into a 3D space. The first few weeks were doing concept work based on prompts she gave me and then settling on one to further work on and finalize in 3D. The sword was blocked out in Maya and then brought into ZBrush. It’s currently still in progress, but overall I’ve learned and practiced a lot with Paige. She’s definitely helped me tackle on the assignment with a different point of view as well as instructing me on how to dive into a program I had never touched before.
To learn more about PCA&D’s Digital Media program, visit pcad.edu/DM.