Create Your Career at the Art Institutes
The Art Institutes system of schools specializes in creative education, with an industry-driven curriculum and a focus on student achievement. The schools offer courses in four areas of study: media arts, design, fashion, and culinary. The faculty members, many of whom work in the industries they teach, bring their real-world experience to both traditional and virtual classrooms. Students also benefit from the colleges’ small class sizes, and they use equipment that their counterparts in the industry use at work. As a result, The Art Institutes’ grads are effectively prepared for entry-level jobs in their fields of study.
The Art Institutes schools are located in 51 cities across the United States and Canada and online. The schools have 66,860 students and 8,700 faculty and staff.
“We provide a quality education to students in creative fields about which they are passionate, and which we believe have good job prospects,” said Barb O’Reilly, The Art Institutes’ director, military and veteran affairs, and a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel. O’Reilly started in her position at The Art Institutes earlier in 2014; she is in charge of outreach and the support of veteran and military programs on campus.
“Additionally,” said O’Reilly, “each of the schools included in The Art Institutes system has a dedicated career services office and staff who help students navigate the job market both before and after graduation by offering leads on job prospects, coaching students on crafting resumes, and preparing them for interviews with employers. The faculty is committed to teaching the latest trends and technologies, equipping students with the skills they need to succeed in the creative industries of the future. The organization also provides numerous opportunities and events for students to showcase their work, including portfolio shows where graduating students present their work to potential employers.”
Military students attending The Art Institutes are eligible for financial assistance. “The majority of the programs at The Art Institutes are approved for VA educational benefits,” said O’Reilly, “and we participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, which makes additional funds available to eligible veterans. Additionally, all campus locations have signed the Memorandum of Understanding Between Department of Defense and Department of Education, which offers the opportunity for military members to attend our campuses using the Tuition Assistance Program.”
The school offers a lot of flexibility to its students. “Military and veteran students tend to be attracted to programs and curricula The Art Institutes offers,” said O’Reilly. “The ability to take classes either online or in a traditional classroom environment creates flexibility. Having start dates throughout the year also meansthat they don’t have to wait to begin classes. Inthe military, we often hear the phrase ‘hurry upand wait,’ but at The Art Institutes veterans can begin their transition from military to civilian on aflexible schedule.”
The way students learn at The Art Institutes should appeal to veterans, but may also challenge them. “At The Art Institutes schools, the programs tend to be very ‘hands on,’ which is a learning style that immediately engages veteran students,” said O’Reilly. “Some of the most popular programs for military and veteran students include media arts, fashion, and culinary. Success in these programs requires characteristics such as personal discipline and a good work ethic, which are honed in the military. At the same time, the programs foster creativity and personal expression.”
Teamwork, something that is important in the military, is also integral at The Art Institutes. “The organization has a team approach to education, which replicates what is done in the military,” said O’Reilly. “It’s all about collaboration, teamwork, and developing personal relationships.”
One program that pulls in a lot of veterans has them spend a lot of time in the kitchen. “The culinary program definitely attracts veterans,” she said. “Our chefs have often expressed how much they value the leadership and maturity of the veteran students. The ‘mission’ within the kitchen requires the opportunity to lead as well as the ability to participate as a team player.”
O’Reilly also believes that veterans make good employees and entrepreneurs. “Veterans bring a strong work ethic, leadership, teamwork, and the ability to work in diverse and challenging environments to a company,” she said. “Many veterans are also drawn to entrepreneur opportunities, and they attend The Art Institutes to improve their career skills.”
The Art Institutes recently signed a Statement of Support for the “8 Keys to Veterans’ Success,” a voluntary initiative of the departments of Education, Veterans Affairs, and Defense. The organization also adheres to the Principles of Excellence established by an executive order of President Obama, and is developing programs for military and veteran students at each campus.
A VETERAN SUCCESS| BRIAN TOWNSEND
Brian Townsend is a graduate of The Art Institute of California-San Diego, a campus of Argosy University. He received a bachelor of science degree in media arts and animation in 2010.
He had been a combat engineer in the United States Army for four years. He spent one year in Korea, one year in Baghdad, and two years at Fort Hood, Texas. He separated in 2006 as an E-4.
His career took a different turn after he left the military. “I’ve spent most of my career in the product visualization field,” he said. “First, I worked at a company that developed software which enabled product designers and engineers to easily create photo-real imagery of their designs before they physically existed.
Now, I work on the production side of things at Microsoft – helping the surface design team do exactly that. I work with product designers to help pitch ideas internally to the executive team as well as create content to help marketing teams sell the products worldwide.
“In the most simple description possible, I’m a product photographer and animator. Most of the time, all the images I create are 100 percent CG (computer generated) – some are a hybrid of photography with CG elements combined, but most people can’t tell that the imagery is CG at all. Those that can are usually in the field or exposed to this content on a day-to-day basis.”
The formal education that Townsend received at The Art Institute got him started. “Before I had formal training, I had rough ideas about how CG production worked,” he said. “The formal education and experience gained through an internship helped me shape those ideas into a more solid foundation. From there, I was able to define my own, repeatable process. Without a repeatable process, success on a project can come down to a matter of luck. A process ensures you can repeat that success from job to job.”
Why did Townsend pick The Art Institute? “First, the training offered there was exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “It was an added bonus that the school happened to be in San Diego. I always wanted to live by the beach, so it was a no-brainer for me.”
Townsend believes that The Art Institute is a great fit for veterans. “Here they have everything you need to succeed,” he said. “It’s not easy, because nothing worthwhile in life ever is. Hard work and tenacity are required for success. Veterans tend to be very proactive and persistent; and with that attitude, they can certainly be successful here.”
Veterans will find success at the school because they have the desire and are willing to work hard. “A student may or may not be the smartest or most talented in the class, but I don’t think that matters at all,” Townsend said. “If a student is willing to work harder, and want it more than those around them, they’ll shoot to the top. No matter how difficult a situation was in school, none of them compared to the stresses experienced in the military. My life was never in danger. I was never freezing cold or burning hot. I was plenty tired at times, but that’s nothing I hadn’t learned to cope with in the military. This kind of perspective helps a student take things in stride.”
What is the most valuable trait acquired in the military? “I would have to say work ethic,” said Townsend. “Many skills can be taught, but the type of work ethic a veteran will have coming out of the military is pretty intense, and is learned over years of relentless training – physical and mental.”
The Art Institute helped Townsend find success. “I can honestly say I would not be here if it wasn’t for that experience,” he said. “It gave me the base level skills I needed to get an internship. The internship gave me the foot in the door to the industry. From there, everything fell into place one small step at a time.”
The school helps veterans succeed, even if they need help in certain academic areas. “There was a tutoring program staffed by students, as well as peer-mentor program which helped new students adjust to school,” said Townsend. “I did use the tutoring program to help out in areas where I needed improvement. I was a peer mentor, so I helped others adjust to school life.”
Townsend began his search for a school early. “I was proactive in searching for a degree program and got everything in order before I left the service,” he said. “This ensured I kept all the momentum moving and didn’t get too comfortable upon exiting the service. I can’t say I would do anything differently.
Even the mistakes I made were important because they brought me to where I am today. Sometimes making mistakes are some of the most important and beneficial learning experiences someone can have.”
Townsend advises servicemembers who are leaving the military to find something they are passionate about. “Do what you love,” he said. “Don’t do what you think someone else wants you to do, or do something purely based off the idea that one can make a lot of money in a certain field.
If you’re not happy with what you do day-today, a huge paycheck may seem like it would make up for it – and it may, temporarily. The fact is we spend most of our lives working, so make sure you settle into something that you love. If you do what you love every day, you’ll never work a day in your life.