The Evergreen State College

Experience Mixed with Sass

Financial support for Evergreen’s Center for Creative and Applied Media by alumni like Dan Black ’91 helps new grads like Cait Richards ’12 create their own stories.

Cait Richards

From the time she was 14 until she came to Evergreen, Cait Richards volunteered at the Hollywood Theater, an historic movie house in her hometown of Portland, Ore. There, she got her first view of cinematic masterpieces from around the world, and was so moved by what she saw on the big screen that she yearned to find a college where she could learn how to make films. “I wanted to touch cameras because I wanted to create story,” she says.

Evergreen, with its media arts resources, faculty, and the Center for Creative and Applied Media (CCAM), was the perfect place for her. She focused on media studies, taking Mediaworks as a sophomore, and the next year, media arts faculty member Sally Cloninger’s program Ready Camera One, which focused on HD-TV production and media studies. It was the first program to use Evergreen’s new CCAM. Richards was hired as a classroom aide for the program, and says, “Working in that studio rocked my world!”

In her final year at Evergreen, Richards did an electronic media video production internship, further developing her technical skills, helping others develop theirs, and with a group of five other interns, producing and directing a three-episode variety show that was broadcast live on TCTV, Thurston County’s public-access television station.

Working in the CCAM pushed open the door for Richards’ current position at Portland Community Media (PCM), the city’s public-access television organization, which broadcasts locally produced programming on six channels. She assists in programming and teaches classes in field production and HD studio production. She’s also taken her technical know-how into her part-time job as an archivist for Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington, and has done video work for the website of the city magazine, Portland Monthly.

Dan BlackDan Black ’91, who works for Microsoft as lead developer account manager for the Xbox 360 game console, is an enthusiastic supporter of the CCAM and students like Richards. As an under- graduate, Black was thrilled to be able to get his hands on all the multimedia treasures Evergreen made available. Even though he graduated before the CCAM opened in 2009, he knows from experience how valuable it is for students to have the most up-to-the-minute tools at their fingertips to acquire the skills they’ll need to succeed in the business.

The CCAM, with its impressive audiovisual and digital capabilities, is the integrated equivalent to the television and audio studios Black and his contemporaries learned in. He backs the CCAM to ensure that tomorrow’s students will have the same opportunity, with the latest tools.

Students also reap the benefits of cooperating with others during the process of creating multimedia projects, Black says. He routinely uses the collaborative expertise he gained at Evergreen in his current position, where he manages Microsoft’s relationships with game developers. “I travel around the world and help people make video games,” he says, “When you’re dealing with artists, electricians, computer scientists, engineers—all sorts of different folks, you learn to come up with a common language to understand each other and work together. That ability is so critical in the real world. It gives you a leg up.”

Richards agrees. “In this world—and this economy—you need to know how to work and play well with others,” she says. “The biggest lesson I learned: Don’t give up! The only way to get technical understanding is to get your hands dirty. It’s a lot to take in and you feel responsible for every mistake you make, but you can’t let it defeat you. I was afraid of screwing up a lot when I came in. But the more mistakes you make, the better you get. It’s trial and error, and you never get better at something unless you screw up at least once.

“The CCAM is as close as you can get to the real thing without leaving school,” Richards says. “You get experience mixed with sass—from clients and staff. You’re protected in a way because you’re a student so they can’t fire you, but at the same time the consequences are real if you screw up—and you don’t want to disappoint your teachers. They want you to succeed. How many opportunities do you get to have that kind of experience?”