New semester invites new resolutions

By Lisa Schulz

While advancing in Columbia, welcoming the spring semester might take more organization than just moving old Word documents from your computer’s desktop to its recycle bin. Finishing old projects and starting a portfolio is now easier than never.

Beginning the semester with a plan to tackle projects earlier can eliminate procrastination, help you meet deadlines and allow room for creative collaboration, all while allotting more time to digitally organize work samples for future public display and job hunting.

Starting projects early can save both time and money, as Bubba Murray, first-year film and video graduate ambassador and writer for Columbia’s graduate blog, “Marginalia,” experienced while creating a project for his fall semester Production I course.

Murray experienced uncertainty with his first film project, “Robox,” which featured a family-oriented, “Frankenstein”-like storyline with a child and cardboard robots. In addition to working with 12 other students, he hired his family as part of his cast to stay within his $400 budget. During the production, his cast abandoned the set because of illness. His supporting crew stepped in to fill the role of the robots while he edited the story significantly to accommodate the changes.

“There’s always a point where you just spend so many hours on [the project], you feel like you’re never going to get past it,” Murray said. “Trust me, I was in a dark place for quite a few weeks when I was working on this. But I’d say a deadline is a powerful catalyst because you know you have to get it done, and you don’t have a choice.”

Mason Kaye, “Marginalia” blogger and second-year graduate ambassador in the Music Composition for the Screen program, took part in the lyrical production of “Robox.” Contributing “realistic, humanistic” instruments, Kaye chose to work with Murray because of his emotional connection with the film.

Even though Kaye was unaware of the film having the potential for failure, he said he would have been able to use the film clips for his own work samples. Like the work trade-off between Murray and Kaye in “Robox,” collaboration should be meaningful for both parties, according to Kevin Henry, an associate professor in the Art & Design Department.

“You need to know a certain amount about another discipline so that you can ask intelligent questions,” Henry said. Flexibility is crucial “so that the person doesn’t feel like they’re basically being hired to just do the grunt work, and they’re not going to be a creative influence.”

In a field that requires collaboration with multiple disciplines, working with a new partner can be tricky because if something goes wrong, it can’t be taken personally, Kaye said. Having strong, independent work skills, such as possessing both quality and speed, is crucial for the job market, he said.

Frequently working with technology can benefit project production and self-promotion, said Kaye, who uses and YouTube to share examples of his work.

“I want to learn as much more of the technology side of this as I can, because after I graduate I’m going to be the only person that’s teaching me how to do it,” Kaye said. “I want to take advantage of having actual professors for the last time of my life.”

For students who haven’t created a digital portfolio, which is key before applying for jobs and internships, the first barrier between procrastination and productivity is establishing a website containing quality work samples, said Christie Andersen, career development specialist in the Portfolio Center.

As long as students are proud of their work, they should begin to display it publicly as early as possible, she said. Digital media allows ease for updating work samples as improvements are made. Most students lack the habit of maintaining an online portfolio, which should be updated after each semester, she said.

“You can’t just be OK as a portfolio job seeker,” Andersen said. “You want to be better than all of the other candidates.”

According to Andersen, students in programs with less artwork or those less experienced can still create a strong website through scheduling a Web Agent session in the Portfolio Center in suite 307 of the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave. The Center has graphic designers available to create layouts beyond the standard resume and cover letter so “you look like you know what you’re doing,” she said.

For students who are just beginning to make their digital footprint, Talent Pool, which can be accessed at, is Columbia’s online database for short profiles and work samples where students can find collaboration partners and future employers can find students.

“Your work’s not going to do you any good if it’s in your basement or if it’s on your hard drive,” Andersen said.