Alumni spotlight: Tapping into talent
Everyone has at least one talent — whether they know it or not. Sometimes it emerges over time on its own while with others it needs to be coaxed out. Wherever a talent falls on that spectrum, college experiences have the power to help students nurture and hone their passions. This month we’re happy to share the stories of several alums whose talents have already taken them far afield.
- Katia Iverson ’12, Augsburg College – refugee resettlement coordinator
- Brit Fryer ’15, Carleton College – independent filmmaker
- Collin Goodspeed ’14, The College of St. Scholastica – ad agency production assistant
- Emily Seelen ’13, Gustavus Adolphus College – water quality doctoral student
- Rosemary Valero-O'Connell ’16, Minneapolis College of Art and Design – comic artist
- Bryan Charles Moore ’13, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota – professional dancer
Katia Iverson ’12 has come to embrace her not-so-common desire—an inexplicable desire—to be around people unlike herself. Likely related to her curiosity about culture and her passion for service and diversity, this desire has been nurtured since childhood by parents who she says are “faithful givers with incredible hearts for service to others.” They are her strongest encouragers in her chosen field—work with refugee resettlement—which she still sees as her “dream job.”
Drawn to Augsburg by the authenticity of her first campus visit (less than glamorous, she says), and because she perceived “no barriers between the school and the city,” Iverson became immersed in service-oriented thinking early, particularly as part of the first Augsburg group of Bonner Leaders, a national student leadership program.
She was amazed at how her Bonner placements (internships with community organizations) informed and reflected the learning in her classes. By the time she was a senior, she knew it would be important that her placement that year look like a job she’d want to do in the “real world.”
Brit Fryer ’15 wasn’t going to waste his time passing out business cards while he was at the Sundance Film Festival. He was there to watch movies.
Fryer was one of 15 young filmmakers chosen for the 2016 Sundance Ignite program, a yearlong fellowship aimed at fostering emerging voices in film. He lived with strangers, Real World–style, for a week while he was attending the Sundance Institute’s signature festival in Park City, Utah—a career-launching celebration of independent filmmaking started by Robert Redford in 1985.
“A couple of other fellows told me, ‘Oh, I only got around to watching two movies. I was busy networking,’ ” Fryer says, incredulously. “What? We’ve been here for seven days! This is a movie festival!”
In addition to round-the-clock screenings, Ignite fellows enjoyed plenty of VIP perks at the January gala: dinner with filmmaking mentors, exclusive Q&As with directors, and information sessions on everything from pitching proposals to raising funds via Kickstarter. During his week at Sundance, Fryer mingled with Redford, Kevin Smith, and Lena Dunham, among others.
Graduate Collin Goodspeed turned his love of film into a career in advertising
Ever since he was a kid, Collin Goodspeed, ’14, wanted to make movies. In high school, he watched cult classic A Clockwork Orange and was absolutely taken with its stylistic choices. In truth, it inspired a curiosity about everything that goes into creating film.
"I started digging into [Stanley] Kubrick's movies, the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese and from there I began studying the minutiae of film," he said. "I got into scriptwriting, cinematography and other elements; I remember thinking that if I could figure out which elements were being blended together that I could replicate it."
This love of motion pictures set Goodspeed on a path to The College of St. Scholastica, and the School of Arts and Letters.
Settling in Duluth
For Goodspeed, finding a major to fit his passion took a little time. Like most parents of creative kids, his mother hoped he would be able find a way turn his technical talent into marketable skill.
In Emily Seelen’s first semester at Gustavus Adolphus College, she led a group project that focused on reducing waste on campus. Systematically measuring and testing each vending machine in every building, Seelen and her peers determined that an unnecessary amount of energy was being spent on machines with infrequent visits. In a short time, these machines’ lights were dimmed or removed completely, significantly saving energy across the campus.
Now, seven years later, the Gustavus alum is conducting research at Umeå University in Sweden after receiving funding through the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide program, which was approved and partially funded by the Swedish Research Council.
Overseeing that initial class project her first year, Gustavus chemistry and environmental studies professor Jeff Jeremiason did not take long to recognize Seelen as a stand-out student and quickly asked her to work in his lab to help conduct research. During the rest of her time at Gustavus, Seelen’s passion and determination continued to open doors to opportunity after opportunity.
“At the beginning of her journey Emily did not realize how unique and talented she truly is,” Jeremiason said. “She is an extremely curious student and an avid learner with a passion to make a real difference, an exceptional combination.”
What do you currently do for a living?
I'm currently a full-time freelancer! Right now my bread and butter is a graphic novel I'm working on with Mariko Tamaki (Skim, This One Summer) for First Second, as well as an upcoming independent project that I can't say much about yet. Those two things make up about 75% of my work week, and the rest gets filled up with whatever smaller projects come along. I've done work for BOOM! Studios and DC Comics, as well as editorial illustration, cover work for comics and newspapers, custom screenprints, etc.
What is your favorite thing about your work?
I'm not being at all disingenuous when I say there is next to nothing about my job that I'm not absolutely in love with. I draw comics for a living, which is a fantastic privilege in itself, but the fact that they're comics I believe in and stories I'm proud to be telling is more than I ever could have asked for. I've gotten to collaborate with people whose work means the world to me, that I've admired since I was a child, and I feel astonishingly lucky to get to call them colleagues.
Although it’s early fall, professional dancer Bryan Charles Moore ’13 is already dreaming of a white Christmas.
In November, the national tour of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas will begin and women in red velvet dresses and men in top hats will be twirling across the stage to the tune of that iconic Christmas song. Children will wear their best outfits, couples will forget their quarrels, and all will be merry and bright for a night at the theatre—and Moore will be in the center of it all.
“White Christmas is my favorite show and a great family to be a part of,” Moore said. “It’s heartwarming, the choreography is challenging, and I look forward to doing it every night.”
This is Moore’s second national tour of White Christmas and he will dance eight shows per week for eight weeks in six cities. Before 2016 rehearsals began, Moore returned to his alma mater’s Winona Campus to teach master tap, musical theatre, and contemporary dance classes at Saint Mary’s Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts (MCA) on Oct. 2 and Oct. 9.
Interested in more alumni stories? Check out these past spotlights of alums whose studies cover a wide range of academic disciplines:
- Alums find career success by pursuing their passions, June 2016
- Recent grads find their niche, Dec. 2015
- Alumni turn dreams into goals into careers, Oct. 2015