December 5, 2016

Presidential Search Forum

Presidential Search Forum

In September, the Presidential Search Committee held two forums which were open to students, staff, and faculty, as they began their search for a replacement to President Schutte. The objective of the forums was to engage with the community and find out what characteristics or qualities we would like to see in the next president of Pratt. Between the two forums, many important and difficult issues were brought forth, the focal points centering around diversity, gentrification, sustainability, faculty and staff experience, and how to engage with the community inside and outside of Pratt.

Diversity and Social Climate: The topics of diversity, gentrification, and changing the social climate came up most frequently, and here are the issues that the guests presented to the forum.
  • For campus climate, we need a president who supports diversity and social movements. But how can we test the sincerity? In the interview process, we need to talk about the bigger ideas, but we must also ask about their previous experience with inclusion to determine how they facilitated and participated in issues of diversity and equality. How have they personally handled racism, sexism, classism?
  • We need to work on the recruitment and retention of People of Color, not only the student body, but also faculty and staff members. We need People of Color to represent the Pratt community and to broaden and deepen the way all students engage with the campus and with the outside community.
  • This brings up the issue of socio-economics--How is the tuition of this institution hindering minority students from applying and attending? What can we do to give more assistance to those students? And what can we do to ensure that students aren’t graduating with massive amounts of debt?
  • We need to start researching new models for the art and design school, perhaps we can find one that is more cost effective, and maybe we could make the cost of curriculum the same as a public college. Pratt cannot be an online school, too much would be lost without the in-class experience. We can't forgo the one on one interaction, but the current model is not financially sustainable. We need to start considering what we want our school to look like in 25 years. Pratt is a landmark, and we need a better quality of sustainability to continue being a landmark.
  • With the rising cost of tuition, how are we improving our interaction with technology? How do we even define technology? We need to see it as platform that has the ability to enhance our model of teaching and make it accessible for a larger, more diverse group of students. How do we change the vocabulary? In the interview process, we need to ask the candidate what their definition of technology is.
  • We need to diversify the curriculum, how quickly and efficiently can we introduce and normalize the teaching of minority artists?
  • The new president must also have experience dealing with Title 9 and issues of gender equality.
  • We have to consider our role in the gentrification of the Clinton Hill neighborhood, and really see how we are displacing the community. We need a president who is more nuanced and educated in the subject, someone who can see the aggressive, detrimental roles other schools have taken in the surrounding neighborhoods. We are a part of a historic community and we are in a very delicate position. We need a president who can think through the issues here, and they should not be the leader of the Clinton Hill community, but they should play a significant role in how Pratt students are involved in the neighborhood.
  • We must also do more with our social justice involvement. We have to take our place with social mobility and keep up with Brooklyn. People should believe the hype, how can we leverage that excitement to build the infrastructure in the neighborhood and to grow the school?
From these points, it is obvious that the next president of Pratt must have a great knowledge of a multitude of social issues and must be conscious of the way Pratt interacts and influences the surrounding neighborhood. But we also need someone who will understand the academic pressures of going to such a specific and intense institution. This raises the question, can a person from the industry do that? Should we be searching for a professional educator or a professional creative? Which would be most beneficial to the students, staff, and faculty?

Students, Staff, and Faculty: Here are the issues that were brought forth about the on-campus academic environment.
  • We need transparency with money. A president who will show us how the money and the endowment are being used. We need transparency, and someone who understands the importance of the students and works to help them financially. In the interview process, a good question to ask would be how the candidate plans to expand our endowment. What kind of upgrades would they make in our facilities and how would they help the faculty become full-time?
  • The concern with a person from industry is that they might follow the trend of moving away from full-time faculty. Many faculty members at Pratt want the students to have full time and part time faculty, a group who would share responsibilities with administration and understand that the students are what make this institution successful.
  • A person who can handle both being the head of the university and engaging with the students, while also being able to handle financial issues and have a healthy relationship with faculty and staff.
  • Someone who can see that certain departments need a better understanding of the mechanics of teaching. The candidate needs first hand knowledge and experience with higher education. Teaching students is at the center of what we are doing at Pratt, and we need someone with that background.
  • Candidate should be interested in transdisciplinary arts as we move forward and continue to move away from the “traditional” classroom setting. Creating a better interdisciplinary program would help build bridges into other departments. We need a president who helps accomplish this task.
  • Needs to appreciate the liberal arts education. The core of the job is teaching, and we need teachers who are hired for how they teach, not just what they can do in their personal or professional careers.  
  • This is not a trade school, but an important and reputable institution. We need to pay more attention to what the alumni are doing and how they have succeeded in the professional and creative worlds.
  • We need someone who can break the barriers at Pratt. It can be very difficult to engage with the on-campus community here. How do we fix that? How do we create a more open and welcoming environment?
  • Personality is important, we need someone who is never in the ivory tower. They need to engage with students, faculty, and staff. Communication is of the utmost importance and they need to build personal connections with students.

After these two forums, and a student forum held by SGA, the process of hiring the new president is in the hands of the Presidential Search Committee and the Board of Trustees. The search committee will engage with a reputable search firm and present this laundry list of social and academic issues, along with the preferred personality characteristics. The search firm will then begin narrowing down the field and eventually they will present 3 or 4 candidates to the Board of Trustees, who will then vote on their top choice after a rigorous interview process. Unfortunately, the candidates are confidential and this limits the involvement of the community in the process. With the issues of diversity, sustainability, gentrification, and community, it is all about breaking down silos and figuring out how to engage the students in this moment. This decision will have a tremendous impact on the Institute and the surrounding neighborhood. 

Written by: Taylor Rasnick

December 2, 2016

Fresh Meet

Thank you to everyone who helped make Fresh Meet awesome! We had a great turnout of first years, upperclassmen and advisers and I heard some incredible advice. For those of you who could not make it, here is a short list of advice to consider as the class registration date gets closer.

  1. Reach out to upperclassmen in the major you are interested in. Because they are currently going through the program they can give you more accurate student based experiences of professors, knowledge of the degree audit, department expectations and more. If you do not know anyone try asking friends, finding the majors’ public groups on Facebook or dropping by the Center for Career and Professional Development to ask us, the Career Ambassadors, if we know anyone.
  2. Join clubs and organizations. They are a great way to meet new people who you know are interested in some of the same things you are.
  3. Take Connections. It is a five week class in the Spring and is a requirement for many of the on campus jobs.
  4. Attend as many Pratt events as possible.
  5. Try out different time management strategies now to find which one works best for you.
  6. Bring your resume to the Center for Career and Professional Development. We are holding drop in hours this semester Monday 2-3:30PM and Wednesday 10:30AM-12:30PM where you can bring in your resume, no appointment needed. Or we can help you set up an appointment with one of our career advisors for resume and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, grad school applications and job hunting strategies. 

    Written by: Bree Balsamo
    Images provided by: Bree Balsamo

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May 11, 2016

Alumni Spotlight: Emily Ventker

Alumni Spotlight: Emily Ventker

In early February, I had the chance to speak with Pratt Alumna Emily Ventker. Emily graduated in 2011 with a BFA in Writing for Performance, Publication, and Media and is now working as Manager of Motion Graphics at NBC Sports. We had the opportunity to really focus on her personal professional development and how she handled the transition out of Pratt and into the workplace as a creative. A sports fanatic myself, it was thrilling to speak to someone with the same enthusiasm and knowledge of the sports world, and to consider all the career possibilities that await. Her advice is insightful and invaluable. I hope you all enjoy.

Tell us a little about yourself and your time at Pratt.

I am originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. On campus, I was involved with the Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity for 4 years. I was a member of the Inter-Greek Council and Program Board, worked at the Library, and was on Orientation Staff, even serving as the coordinator in the fall of 2010.

How do you think your experience at Pratt helped shape you as the artist/creative professional you are now?

At Pratt, I think the creative critiquing process was a massive help. Learning how to cope and deal with other people's thoughts, how to learn from critiques quickly and how to manage your time. It means that all nighters aren't scary - and I deal with a lot of those at my job now. But nothing can really prepare you for the real world, you just go out and use what you learned.

What were some of the challenges you faced while at Pratt and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I faced was the isolation within the majors. I constantly saw the same people, was in classes with the same people.  It was hard to find new inspiration when I was consistently around similar people. I think you need to see outside yourself in order to grow as an artist. So I joined Greek Life, got involved on campus, and through that I was able to meet people from other majors and reach outside that bubble to gain different perspectives.

Did you have any internships while at Pratt? How did this influence or shape your career path?

During my Senior year, I was a Nickelodeon production intern from 2010 to 2011. It was a fantastic experience, I learned so much and actually got experience as a scriptwriter. I didn’t go run errands or get coffee, but I got to sit at the writers table and bounce ideas off of the showrunners and other, older writers. During my internship, I began to write and doctor animated shows for preschool age kids. From that, I was asked by a head showrunner to write for The Wix, they just took a chance on me and it was amazing. It’s an example of how a cold application can work. I applied to that first internship online without knowing anybody in the company, so no inside connections, but my resume was strong and I got called. There is hope!

Can you tell us how you began working at your current job?

Right now I am working as a Producing Manager of Motion Graphics for NBC Sports. It was another cold application process. After working with Nickelodeon, I  worked with MTV and VH1, producing the 100 greatest shows and short sketch comedies until they laid off the entire production team. So from there I floated around and worked in politics and other things, really anywhere I could find a job. But my dream was to work in sports television. And this was all about timing, because a few years ago NBC got the rights to the Barclays Premier League and,  again, I did a cold application. But for this one, I wrote a complete love letter about how much it would mean to have the opportunity to work with soccer. I wanted to show that I was one of the people who actually understood sports and especially soccer, which isn’t huge in the States. It took four months to hear back, I had applied in May and didn't get the job until September. And it's still a baby network; it has only been around for about three years, but it is protected under the parent company.

What does a normal day look like at NBC Sports?

There isn’t really a normal day at work. Because I do Sunday Night Football, I work Monday through Friday and Sundays. Like with the Super Bowl, there is a constant need to pay attention to the athletes, who is injured, and to the producer of the brand. It is my job to see the promotion created from start to finish, and be knowledgeable on the brand. Some of my projects are the new promotions for the NHL, the major push to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, and I did the promotions for the Sochi Olympics in 2014. That experience was 18 days of living at the office. It’s a 24 hour network, so if the Kings win a game at 10 pacific time, I have to go in at 1 in the morning to create the promotions that are shown on the morning news. We have four creative directors who we have to get approval from and who decide what the tone of the spot will be. Then we have a team of maybe 12 designers whose job it is to figure out how to translate and create spots within the vision of the brand and the directors. We have to think about what face NBC wants to have. And there is so much that goes into this process, and so much that I have learned from it. I studied design theory and typography, I learned about software color correction and the differences between paper color and digital color. Those were all basic things that were completely out of my major at Pratt but I was willing to learn and I did quickly. Design is a different type of story telling, and I had to learn in order to navigate what creative directors wanted and how to handle all the different creative ideas. Now, I know how to write and create presentations for the designers, how to articulate storyboards, and how to work in short form for under-30 seconds promotion spots. And the content I get to work with is a dream come true.

How did you transition from attending an art school to being in a professional workplace?

Well the benefit of being in television is that it’s professional to an extent. We like to joke that we are all like Liz Lemon, wearing jeans and sweatshirts. Of course, all the people in administration show up in their suits, but the kids in production are creating all the work and we like to be comfortable. I go to work at 10 in the morning, but I usually work late into the night. The only really big change I experienced was having the client in the building. That is the boss; the client that is paying for a service that I am creating. It’s a good mentality to have. There is a difference in working for yourself versus working for a client. You have to learn to serve the purpose of the client, regardless of what your personal creative opinion is. You have to fulfill the need of the client.
Where do you hope to see your career in ten years?

I have two places I would hope to see myself in ten years. Either I would be working in promotional design and marketing still, but as the Creative Director. I would be able to dictate the mass idea and control the project. And I would still be focused in sports. Or, my other hope would be to work as a feature story producer within the soccer team.

Do you have any advice for current Pratt students?

Don’t be afraid to defend your work. It is deflating when you get told that your work isn’t the best, but you need to have the guts to defend your work and the vision you have for it. If you can justify why you make certain creative choices, then you will gain respect from the teachers. Have the conviction to stand up for yourself, while still being open to ideas on how to improve. Two separate approaches to creative visions with an open creative dialogue will produce the best work.

Written by: Taylor Rasnick