The chapel of the Horizon Building was packed and ready for keynote speaker Amy Smeed, Animation Director at Walt Disney Animation Studios. She worked on the Disney movies Moana and Frozen, just to name a few. “Animation was my first love," Amy started. Sounds promising. Her story was mainly about seizing opportunities, being open, especially to yourself, and "please do ask for help and feedback, without that I would not have become what I am now. You actually start growing during a work placement," Amy says. "I remember my first project when I got the chance to work in an animation team as a character animator." And then smiling, "my story was actually not that good at all." Something with an earring and a vacuum cleaner, but the images brought it to life, she explained. That's what images do.
Everyone has a unique skill
"Having confidence in yourself is the most important thing," Amy emphasises. Because "everyone has a unique skill." She admits that she was very lucky. "I received a lot of support from the people around me, from producers and directors. They did exactly what I do now as an animation director, enabling artists to get the best out of themselves. Each of the characters in our Disney films has a dream. Don't give up your energy, take risks. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't." At the end of her story, Amy explains how important it is to use each other's strengths within a team. And even if you are part of a team, you remain responsible. In short, "take ownership of what you are doing."
We Are Live
In the story of alumnus Thomas Mulder, the work placement also appears as the most important learning opportunity. Thomas graduated in 2015 and is now Managing Director at We Are Live, an online video production company. Thomas presents his view on connecting with the industry, neatly structured in three parts. What I've learned, What I've missed and What about the future? "I experienced my most memorable school experiences outside these doors," Thomas started. "Everything I did outside of these four school walls made me happy." Sounds reasonable. Although he also acknowledges that the help within the school walls was indispensable. With 'outside these doors' Thomas is referring to the work placements, the live television project that second-year students work on in the USA, production work, and projects for the industry. With this he emphasises once again how important the connection with the industry is. "Nothing is as bad as coming back to school after a work placement of five months and having to get started with an assignment for a fictional client."
Taste and try different things
Thomas indicates the importance of interaction with the industry, before and after work placements. Thomas also believes that supporting students in the transition from school to working life helps students to be better prepared and to have a better match with their professional future. A good work placement starts with a good match between student and host company. Five months is a long time if you are not in the right place. "Let students taste and try different things." Thomas is clear about the future: use alumni to shape education and research. From the industry's perspective, they can make a valuable contribution
Our learning community is not only here
In her closing speech, Elisabeth Minnemann elaborates about the BUas strategy and also refers back to the ownership that Amy Smeeds spoke about. "If we want to be a professional top institute, we have to take ownership." She expresses her gratitude to everyone who has taken responsibility for the realisation of the new campus. "It is not completely finished yet, but it is already working," she happily concludes. In the Frontier Building, she says, there will be an Innovation Square where graduates and start-ups can collaborate with the industry. It is up to everyone in the learning community to help shape this. "And our learning community is not just here, as we have seen today, but all over the world. So please, come up with ideas and new initiatives to give shape to our new Innovation Square." Because, as with every story, "it must come to life".