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  • May/2011

Achieving Work/Life/School Balance

by South University
May 31, 2011

In this day and age, it’s probably more difficult than ever to separate our work, school, and personal lives. Each facet of what we do is no more than a few mouse clicks away, and it’s become easier than ever to develop workaholic tendencies as a result. An article from CNN.com entitled “Workaholics on Vacation? Not Likely” found that 34% of Americans don’t use all of their allotted vacation time and that 30% of workers feel work-related stress while on vacation.

In spite of the workaholic tendencies that many Americans have developed, the article argues for the importance of work/life balance. Workaholic employees often breed resentment, stress, and anxiety in their non-workaholic peers. The perception exists that since one is never far from access to work-related emails and tasks, they should be connected at all times in order to ensure their job security. However, a constant focus on work can often lead to burnout and the disintegration of personal relationships.

As an online student, it can also be easy to slip into this mode. You’re juggling not only work and family life, but you’re coursework as well. The best way to combat this issue is to compartmentalize your life. You complete your work responsibilities at work. You budget time to complete schoolwork, and you ensure that you leave enough time to spend with family and friends. The bottom line is that you need to be organized and mindful of where you spend your time.

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Are You Annoyed? A New Book Explains Why

by South University
May 26, 2011

Let’s face it; we’re all annoyed by something. Fingernails unforgivingly scraping across a chalkboard. A bee buzzing relentlessly in our ear. A co-worker who shows up late for meetings. But what is it about these occurrences that irks us so much? According to a book called Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman, discussed in a recent NPR article, part of the issue is the inability of the human brain to predict what’s going to happen next.

This is particularly true with the advent of cell phones. Most likely, we’ve all been irritated by a cell phone conversation at one time or another, but why? Palca and Lichtman suggest that it’s our inability to wrap our minds around the full picture of the situation. When we hear only half of a conversation, our brain tries to fill in the blanks, but, depending on what form the conversation takes, this can be nearly impossible.

Other examples include waiting to board a plane at the airport and sitting in traffic that doesn’t seem to be moving at all. In both situations, we have a certain expectation (that we’ll be able to board our plane when the airline indicated to us and that we’ll be able to make it to our destination on time), and it’s frustrating when that expectation is not met, with no explanation as to why.

Annoyances are nearly impossible to escape, so it’s reached the point where we should expect them. But expecting to encounter irksome situations doesn’t appear to make them easier to live through. We all have different experiences on a day-to-day basis, and thus encounter different annoyances. In fact, chances are that we all do something that annoys someone else. Rather than get all bent out of shape about it, perhaps it’s better to shrug and say, “Well, that’s life, I guess.”

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Guest Speaker Recap: Bruno Velazquez Part Three

by Student
May 26, 2011

By Guest Blogger
Bethany Crowley

Student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Member

 

Arnold asks Velazquez about his take on the importance of a degree, certificate or training in the industry. Velazquez responds that there are several people he has met over the years that did not have any degree who were able to get in. "As the industry has become more popular," he notes, "it's gotten a lot harder to get your foot in the door. But I think that if you get to know what it takes to make a game and you decided which area you want to focus on, that will definitely help." So will a degree, he claims. "Learn all about what position you want and what you want to get into." Because this is such a specialized industry, it is crucial to know your strengths and become skilled in that area. Then you will be able to prove it to a potential employer.

As Velazquez goes on to say that personal projects are available to him, "it's just a matter of me actually doing it," he laughs. "Especially after working, I still have enough energy and passion to work on being a better animator and drawer." Keeping the whole team motivated and up to date on their own skills and inspirations gets a bit adventurous, however. "The number one thing we like to do here is set up figure drawing classes. It's a way for us to keep up with our drawing skills, and just to have that available is helpful. Playing games is another way of getting our skills up. You figure out why they're fun, why they're not fun. We also watch movies, a lot of Japanese animations which keeps us pumped up." Velazquez says that personal fun is important to growth as artists and developers. "It's so important."

"Any demo reel tips or advice you can share with our students, Bruno?" Arnold asks. The question had been looming for awhile. "Oh of course - I can really only talk about it from an animator's perspective, but what I like to see is creativity, definitely." Velazquez mentions that we all probably know the usual submission requirements of a walking and running cycle in animations. "But I'd rather see them being incorporated into a scene rather than just simple walking and running cycles on their own. Show me a guy running and then coming to a stop. Show me a little story that incorporates that idea - I'm not saying everyone has to create a short film, but maybe a small scene that shows camera movement and personality. Just have fun with it and show me your creativity." Velazquez goes on to say that he would really only want to see students' best stuff. "I'd rather see a short demo reel with nothing but good stuff then a longer one with a bunch of really bad stuff," he laughs.

"And how much does fan feedback affect the evolution of a series or characters and game play?" Arnold wonders. "Oh, I think it's very important actually. A lot of us like to go on blogs and read comments after the game has come out. We take it apart and really read into what people have to say," Velazquez claims. "This is so that hopefully we'll get another chance to change something in the next game or something." Velazquez opens up about Kratos's weapon choices in the series. "This happened with Kratos's new weapons; we tried to do our best with those weapons and people seemed to like to go back to the chains. We realized that people really liked that about Kratos, as it was a part of his character, and so we tried to incorporate that into God of War III for fans who liked that aspect about him."

"Bruno, what's the best piece of criticism you've received about your work and what does it mean to you now?" Arnold asks. Velazquez thinks aloud until finally stating that, "as an animator, one of the best compliments is when someone doesn't notice anything about the animation.." He laughs and goes on to say, "I mean when someone doesn't say anything negative about it. If something moves in an unnatural way, it stands out like a sore thumb. I mean silence is golden because if it's right, the animation just feels natural - animation is about making movements feel natural, people don't question it when you get it right." They just enjoy it.

Velazquez talks about how important he thinks hand drawing skills are to an animator. "Because I came from an artistic background, it's certainly very helpful. I don't think it's a must though, to know how to draw, as long as you understand the principles of animation." He recommends taking some figure drawing classes to help with developing and brushing up on skills. "It helps train your eye to see how the body works, how weight is distributed, how feet stand on the ground."

As Arnold and Velazquez agree to bring the presentation to a close, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have attended such an event. One part of the earlier conversation echoes throughout my mind as we all say our goodbyes. What motivates Velazquez day to day, exactly? "It helps when a project is successful," he laughs. "Lesser known ones helped along the way, of course, but if you enjoy it it's great." Velazquez went on to say that the cycles in a production can take several years, so motivation is important. Keeping the focus drives the team along and, as is quite evident, he enjoys animation, "so it is always helpful and inspiring to learn each day, work on what I love each day." There will always be a need for animators, he claims. "As the industry moves forward, it's important to have animators with those core skills, so there will always be a need."

In wrapping up, Arnold asks is Velazquez has anything else he would like to share with all of us. As he thanks everyone for their time, Velazquez admits that he is honored to be the first guest for the Guest Speaker series. And I cannot help but feel the subtle chill of excitement that creeps up my spine as he ends in saying, "This has been great. And I look forward to possibly getting to work with some of you guys in the future!"

Many thanks are owed to Bruno Velazquez for his unparalled time, presentations, insights, and thoughtfullness while working with our IGDA Guest Speaker Coordinators, Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division faculty and staff, and the students of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division.

 

Want to watch the recording of this presentation? Check it out on our Featured Events page!

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Legal Internships – Helping Students Become the Best Candidate for the Job

by Jared Newnam
May 26, 2011

Employers look for workers with experience, so the best way for legal students to prepare for their future is to take advantage of internship opportunities while they are still in school. Legal internships can teach students valuable skills that can work for them by boosting their résumé and helping them to become the best candidate for the job.

Doris Rachles, online director of Legal Studies for South University — Savannah says that it’s never too early for Legal Studies and Paralegal Studies students to begin looking for legal internship opportunities.

“The best way to find one is to network everywhere you go,” Rachles says. “Talk to everyone you meet or know and ask them if they know a lawyer who would be happy to get some free help, in exchange for teaching a student eager to learn.”

Patty Dietz-Selke, student outreach coordinator and vice president of the Georgia Association of Paralegals, advises students to get involved with their local paralegal association. She says this is a great source for networking, pro-bono volunteer opportunities, and training classes. Involvement in these associations can also be a great way to find legal internship opportunities.

Rachles says that the internship is the most important part of the education for Legal Studies and Paralegal Studies students.

“The internship is the opportunity for Legal Studies and Paralegal Studies students to put together what they learned in class and see how it all works in the real world,” Rachles says. “It gives the students the chance to meet challenges when it comes to getting along with people on the job, from clients to support staff, to attorneys.”

Rachles says that while interning, students must dress professionally, just as any other member of a legal team.

“They often get to go to court with their attorneys so they can see what happens after they do research and draft documents,” she says.

A legal internship can really be beneficial for those individuals that don’t have any prior experience.

During their legal internship, students get to follow procedures in a legal setting and work on cases, many times from beginning to end, Rachles says.

“At the end of this experience, most of my students feel the most important thing they learned was to have confidence in themselves,” she adds.

Dietz-Selke, who is also employed as a paralegal, says that having legal internship experience can give students a competitive edge over those without a similar background. The current economic environment has made legal internships much more competitive, because there are fewer job opportunities out there and more people are competing for them, Dietz-Selke says.

“A legal internship can really be beneficial for those individuals that don’t have any prior experience,” Dietz-Selke says.

Dietz-Selke says that internships are also a good place for students to network with legal professionals, because they have the opportunity to meet people that might be able to help them find jobs in the future.

“They can make contacts and mix and mingle with working attorneys and paralegals,” Dietz-Selke says.

Finding the Right Internship Opportunities

When searching for an internship, Rachles says that students should look for a place where they can find a mentor.

“There has to be someone who is willing to take the student under his or her wing to give guidance and support,” Rachles says. “It is intimidating, at first, to step foot into a law office or legal setting. While internships run the gamut from legal departments at banks, to foreclosure defense to prosecuting criminals, and much more, the common thread is that if they do not have a site supervisor who will help them learn, they will not have the best possible experience.”

Dietz-Selke says that students should determine who they wish their ideal employer to be, perform a due diligence on a company before looking for jobs with them, and determine what their priorities are with employers.

 

“Match up what your interests and priorities are to get your legal internship,” Dietz-Selke says. “This goes for fields as well. Do background research to figure out what you’re looking for.”

Dietz-Selke advises students to remember that finding an internship is a two-way street; they are also interviewing the company to see if it’s a good fit for them.

Learning From a Legal Internship

Rachles says the ultimate goal of an internship is for the student to both learn and be helpful to the employer that they are working for.

Dietz-Selke says that intern work ranges anywhere from gopher work and being a runner, to doing receptionist work, to assistant paralegal work, to full paralegal work.

She advises students to determine what their responsibilities will be when negotiating a potential internship with an employer.

“Making copies and getting coffee for people isn’t a viable internship; it’s not serving students’ best interests,” Dietz-Selke says. “Make sure the idea is that you get some actual meaty paralegal experience,” Dietz-Selke says.

Dietz-Selke says students should discuss their internship responsibilities with potential employers before taking the job, so they understand what is expected of them.

“Always do the best to set yourself up for success and not failure,” Dietz-Selke says.

Employment Potential After a Legal Internship

Dietz-Selke says that companies sometimes hire interns for full-time employment after they have completed their internship, but she advises students not to get their hopes up.

“Don’t walk in with the expectation that just because I got the internship they’re going to hire me,” Dietz-Selke says.

She says that receiving an offer for full-time employment is the most positive and most ideal outcome, but students should be realistic with their expectations.

She advises them to discuss the situation upfront to see if there is a possibility of gaining full-time employment.

 “Unless you ask the question, you may not get that answer,” Dietz-Selke says.

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Focusing on Your Studies in the Online Environment

by South University
May 23, 2011

As an online student, it can be tempting to venture to other websites outside the Campus Common and online classroom, including the ever-popular Facebook. It’s always a good idea to take a break from your studies now and then, but you should also take steps to ensure that social networking doesn’t monopolize your online activities.

  • When you're studying online, refrain from logging in to social websites like Facebook and Twitter. If you want to use social avenues to connect with your fellow students and faculty, opt instead for Connections, South University’s exclusive social network. It includes sections for internal and national clubs and organizations you may wish to join.
  • Think twice about who you connect with on social sites, as well as the comments you post there. Openly complaining about work, class or other friends could actually paint you in a negative light amongst your peers.
  • When you log in to your computer with the goal of participating in the online classroom, do just that. Once you’ve completed the work you set out to do, you can reward yourself by browsing other websites you enjoy, including social websites.

In the online learning environment, it’s easy to become distracted by outside influences, but with the right attitude and focus, you can complete your work in a productive manner.

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