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Arts Division’s Creative Entrepreneurship Internship Program Launches Students Into Careers at Top Organizations

CEI Inaugural Cohort

Inaugural group gaining invaluable job experience from internships at Lionsgate, Sony Pictures, Chronicle Books, KQED and many more

When UCSC senior Leah Fuentes earned an internship this past summer at ITVS (Independent Television Service) in San Francisco, which partners with independent filmmakers to help fund documentary films, she hoped that her experience with them would last a lifetime. As a Film and Digital Media major this internship would mean that she could learn about what it takes to finance films, write grants, and connect with other filmmakers.

Not only did she find that ITVS was the perfect environment for her to manifest her interests, but she impressed her mentors so much that she already has been offered a job there after she graduates. “Now that I am going into my senior year at UCSC, I feel the most fulfilled and confident in myself, especially because of my experience at ITVS,” said Leah, who’s also the first in her family to attend college.

Leah Fuentes

This outstanding opportunity was provided to her through the UCSC Arts Division’s Creative Entrepreneurship Internship (CEI) program, lead by Danette Buie, Director of Student Opportunity, Success, and Equity. 

“The overall experience of working with the inaugural CEI cohort has been an amazing experience,” said Buie. “From the initial application phase, interviewing and final selections, to watching the cohort thrive in their internships, we’ve far exceeded expectations and have really set the bar high!”

Danette Buie

Originated by the Arts Division’s Dean Susan Solt, the Office of Student Opportunity, Success, and Equity was developed to align with Dean Solt’s commitment to promote student engagement and success strategies to increase academic success for artists and scholars who will shape the culture of the 21st century.

“We are excited to be the first academic division on campus to establish an office dedicated to recruiting, retaining, and launching our students into their careers, while also creating a student equity-focused environment,” said Dean Solt. “As part of my vision for this office, we also created Artist21’s Creative Entrepreneurship Internship program.”

Dean Susan Solt

During the summer of 2018, CEI got off to an excellent start, placing 15 Arts Division students throughout the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz. Thirteen of the interns successfully completed their summer internships, and the remaining two CEI students are now completing their internships during the fall quarter.

Adriana Galdos, who is also a senior in Film and Digital Media, was an intern at KQED in San Francisco, the nation’s most-listened-to public broadcasting station, and made quite an impression. Her main goals were to build strong relationships and future collaborations that would help her to achieve her dream of becoming a professional filmmaker.

Adriana Galdos

“Adriana has been nothing short of a blessing for our department,” wrote her mentor at KQED, Project Supervisor and Associate Producer Aine Henderson, on her evaluation. “I am forever thankful that I got the opportunity to work with her and I can only hope that she takes away half as much as I have learned from working with her. Her participation in this internship has been nothing short of wonderful and makes me look forward to continuing KQED’s connection with UCSC. I am happy that Adriana is the future of the media and entertainment industry.”

Another CEI intern, Josselyn Morales who’s a senior majoring in Art, worked at the Museo Eduardo Carrillo archiving the artist’s (and former UCSC Art professor) work in preparation for the Smithsonian Latinx archives. “In the process of archiving Carrillo’s life work I finally felt I understood him as an inspiring and truly iconic Latinx artist and overall caring person,” she said. “I felt honored in helping to promote their mission because it hits so close to home.”

Jocelyn Morales

Josselyn gained important skills during her internship, including what it’s like to work with a non-profit director and how to communicate effectively. She credits her mentor, Betsy Anderson, Executive Director at Museo Eduardo Carrillo, with inspiring her and helping her to mold her aspiration of creating her own arts education non-profit one day. “I came out of this experience more confident in myself, but even more so in the power within my work and future work.”

“CEI internships provide underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to work in the creative industries of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, as well as California cultural institutions across the state,” explained Dean Solt. “In response to alumni experiences and what is an increasingly arts-hostile national environment, the CEI program underscores the importance to build students’ confidence in the competencies, skill-sets, and abilities they acquire while pursuing an arts education that when applied to a professional practice or career-capacity, is in high demand.”

Paolo Rein (far left) with a producer at Sony Pictures

CEI participants also can receive academic credit and financial assistance in addition to their paid internships. Unfortunately, travel and living expenses are often barriers that keep underrepresented students from applying to internships in the state. CEI seeks to close this gap by providing partner organizations with a diverse pool of qualified candidates to meet their needs, and providing additional funds to assist students with housing and/or professional development expenses.

As students complete their internships, they move into the second phase of the program, which includes a pitch competition for students to incubate a creative project or business idea based on their internship experience.

The incubation phase is designed to deepen students’ learning by giving them the opportunity to take what they learned as they saw creative entrepreneurship in action during their internships and apply it to a project of their own. Students will pitch their ideas for applying their artistic practice in the context of designing, managing and implementing a solution to a community need or market demand that they identify. If selected for incubation, these projects will receive the funding and coaching that will support them through the process of building their venture from the ground up. This includes training in business plan development, marketing, leadership and creative confidence.

Michelle Hua at Lionsgate

Recently, the cohort participated in a Pitching 101 workshop with Yethzéll Díaz, Research Program Manager in the Arts Division, and Marcelo Viana Neto, Visiting Assistant Professor in Art and Design: Games and Playable Media.

“Our students are dynamic and multi-talented artists,” observed Buie. “I would highly recommend the CEI program to artists, performers, and creative practitioners interested in learning the mindset of a creative entrepreneur and the importance of personal agency in developing their careers. This program makes such internships in the creative and technology industry more feasible for UC Santa Cruz artists who need to make money while getting work experience."

While interning at Funomena, a San Francisco independent game studio founded by Robin Hunicke, who is a UCSC associate professor in Games & Playable Media, student Tristan Burnside received rave reviews. Funomena’s general manager, Jason Haber, described Tristan as outstanding. “From the beginning, he suggested improvements to our QA pipeline that helped extensively in understanding our game bugs,” said Haber. “…as a QA intern, Tristan showed that he can be dependable regardless of the ambiguity of the tasks at hand or the role he’s put into.”

Tristan Burnside

MFA/Digital Arts and New Media student Shimul Chowdhury knew she had to apply to be a CEI intern as soon as she found out about it. “There’s a misconception that creative disciplines result in unemployment or dissatisfaction and I know that is not true,” she said. Shimul landed at Chronicle Books in San Francisco for her summer internship working for the Food/Lifestyle publishing group. During her two months there she researched trends, compiled sales statistics, reviewed book proposals, drafted title copy, responded to unsolicited submissions, and coded manuscripts for design.

Shimul found the atmosphere at Chronicle Books to be highly creative, supportive, and empowering. She was especially impressed that they hire so many women and that they also have diversity initiatives that she could take part in. She met another editor in the Children’s publishing group who got her involved with books that fell in categories focused on Muslim and South Asian identity, asking her for her thoughts and opinions.

Shimul Chowdhury

Consequently, Shimul started interacting with editors in other departments and learned as much about the publishing industry as she could. “Every experience felt valuable in a way I didn’t expect,” she said. “The world of publishing was not ever a career path that I had considered. After this experience, however, I can very much see myself working in this field.”

Roland Yambao at Nirveda Congnition

The other CEI interns and where they’ve been interning are Jayann Bella, senior, Art/San Jose Museum of Art; Christian Bernal, senior, Music and Economics/Indexical; Marguerite Brown, MA, Music Composition/Indexical; Michelle Hua, senior, Film and Digital Media/Lionsgate; Courtney Hunt, senior, Art & Design: Games & Playable Media/Funomena; Leslie McShane Lodwick, graduate student, History of Arts and Visual Culture (HAVC)/Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH); Maria Martinez, senior, HAVC/MAH; Paolo Rein, senior, Film and Digital Media/Sony Pictures; Roland Christopher Yambao, senior, Art/Nirveda Cognition; Reshma Zacharia, senior, Art & Design: Games & Playable Media/Funomena.

“While I acknowledge and even celebrate the very important role that the creative industries play in the economy, I vehemently assert that we must never lose sight of art’s unique intrinsic value,” said Dean Solt. “Through advocating for the arts, and by asserting their own worth as artists, the next generation can help ensure that the arts not only survive, but thrive into the future.”

Maria G. Martinez at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH)

Click here to learn more about the CEI inaugural group.

-- by Maureen Dixon Harrison