April 2017 Newsletter: Interns Gain Valuable Skills at Cinequest Film Festival

Photo: James Tensuan Bianca Jaimes posed for a photo on campus with her Cinequest Film and VR Festival pass. She was one of eight SJSU students to intern during the spring festival. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Photo: James Tensuan
Bianca Jaimes posed for a photo on campus with her Cinequest Film and VR Festival pass. She was one of eight SJSU students to intern during the spring festival. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

By the time Bianca Jaimes — a San Jose State University senior majoring in Radio, Television and Film — finished her internship with the 2017 Cinequest Film and VR Festival last month, the experience had sharpened her focus on her future in the industry.

Not only did she learn firsthand how film festivals work, including the crucial art of networking to make industry connections, but also how important the planning and pre-production part of a film project is for its ultimate success.

“The internship definitely helped me and gave me consideration, choices and options to consider for my future,” she said. “It did give me more insight on the process of getting my own productions out there.”

At this year’s festival, eight SJSU students participated in the internship program for the annual event that screened more than 500 films from Feb. 28 to March 12 at venues scattered throughout downtown San Jose, as well as San Jose’s Santana Row and Redwood City. Alison McKee, a professor in the Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre who alternates directing RTVF internships with Professor Kimb Massey, said one-quarter of the department’s 32 spring semester internships among juniors and seniors are with the film festival.

Internships, both paid and unpaid, are required to earn a degree from the department and can be with a wide variety of companies and organizations. McKee said RTVF students, who must find and secure internships on their own, are also at ABC7 News in San Francisco and NBC Bay Area in San Jose this semester. The internships in her department are also occasionally with Silicon Valley high-tech companies that have their own media production facilities or such high-profile film production companies as Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville and Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles.

“Cinequest, in particular, presents an amazing opportunity for students, partly because it is just so convenient,” McKee noted, adding most festival venues are within easy walking distance of the campus. But it also brings the film industry, based largely in Southern California, to the Capital of Silicon Valley every year.

Student interns at Cinequest perform a variety of tasks, ranging from helping set up events, running errands in the background, setting up the hospitality center, assisting projectionists, promoting the festival and a myriad of other duties.

Jaimes worked as a hospitality concierge at the film festival, allocating passes to filmmakers, contacting them to make sure they would attend festival events, working on guest lists for breakfasts and workshops, creating and filling filmmaker “goodie bags,” among other tasks. She was stationed in the event’s VIP Lounge, located in The Continental Bar & Lounge, next door to the venerable California Theatre. The lavishly renovated 1,122-seat movie palace opened in 1927 and serves as headquarters for Cinequest.

“In general, I helped make sure everything ran smoothly, and that guests and filmmakers were happy and got great service,” Jaimes said.

McKee stays in close contact with students enrolled in RTVF 198 — Internships, Portfolio, Career Prep — a three-unit semester course. She meets with them three to four times during the semester and requires a report about the internship from students at its conclusion. The real-world workplace experience can be invaluable.

“They learn practical skills, how to present themselves and how to network and establish relationships,” McKee said. “They get tested in a real-work environment, and it also helps them hone their interests while still in school. Another valuable lesson is learning the value of time management. Our students are pulled in so many different directions. They have to learn how to manage their time in what is a less-forgiving environment than school. They can apply that to their studies, as well.”

May 2016 Newsletter: Graduate Equity Fellowship Fosters Mentorship

As a working mom and full-time student, Xochlit Garcia said it was a sacrifice to enroll in graduate school. Garcia is one of several SJSU students who received 2015-16 Graduate Equity Fellowships. The program provides a scholarship of $1,000 to $3,000 to offset the cost of tuition and also provides a faculty mentor component to help students focus on their career objectives.

“Between family, school and interning, it has helped me keep my mind on track and focus,” she said. “I’m not worried about paying additional tuition.”

Garcia, who works on the weekends, is finishing her master’s in counseling education in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education this semester and working towards a Pupil Personnel and Services credential that requires 600 internship hours.

“One of my biggest challenges has been trying to support my family in terms of time and money – juggling both those things,” she said. “The scholarship makes life a lot easier.”

She also appreciates the faculty mentor component of the program and has worked closely with Dr. Jason Laker.

“It’s good to have a mentor to discuss academic plans and the steps to achieve that,” said Garcia, who graduates in May.

Karly Comfort, a master’s of social work student in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, also completes her degree this spring. She especially appreciated having a faculty mentor. She worked with Dr. Peter Allen Lee, who helped her think critically about how the work done in classes applies to real-world situations. Comfort said the fellowship allowed her to put in many internship hours that have provided practical experience. SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success student engagement pillar aims to increase high-impact practices such as mentor programs and internships.

“It was a huge part of my professional development,” she said. “A lot of school learning is theoretical, but when we get to be in the field we really learn the skills you need to be a social worker.”

Comfort interned with a mental health family enrichment program working with children ages 0 to 5 on building parent-child relationships through play and with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, where she rotated through different departments. Her experiences at SJSU prepared her for a position at a health clinic in east San Jose where she will begin working in June.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2016-2017 Graduate Equity Fellowship awards through June 24.

March Newsletter: CS Students Become Technology Ambassadors

Samantha Flores, left, '17 Psychology, is an IT Services student assistant who is serving as a liaison for computer science students piloting new applications such as Cisco Spark.

Samantha Flores, left, ’17 Psychology, is an IT Services student assistant who is serving as a liaison for computer science students piloting new applications such as Cisco Spark.

Debra Caires, a computer science lecturer and director of the internship program in the College of Science, transformed her Technical Writing (CS 100W) courses into a service learning class so that her students would get real-life experience. Her students work with clients to identify and solve a problem in a way that is transferable, sustainable and scalable, just as they would if they were working in the programming industry.

“There has been a huge employment shift in Silicon Valley,” Caires said. “Entry-level jobs are requiring two internships or courses that have applicable projects.”

In Caires’s classes, groups of students are paired with a client – a faculty member, staff member, student organization, small business or nonprofit representative – who needs help in using technology to solve a real-life problem. Caires said the “tidal wave” of new technologies on campus can be intimidating, but her students can serve as technology ambassadors by helping their clients to implement the resources available at SJSU.

Caires selected three groups of students this semester to oversee a pilot of new online tools, including IBM’s Watson Analytics, a predictive analytics and data visualization tool; Adobe’s XD, a user experience application; Adobe’s Voice, an animated video tool; Adobe’s Slate, a visual storytelling application; and Cisco Spark, a tool that incorporates secure messaging and video conferencing.

The three groups of students will be working with their clients, and will also be reporting back to  IT Services (ITS) student assistants on any feature requests or bugs they find while using the new Cisco Spark application to improve user experience. The IT student assistants who will serve as liaisons include Sri Krishna Kadiyala, ’17 Bioinformatics Engineering, Jose Lupercio, ’17 Justice Studies, and Samantha Flores, ’17 Psychology.

“It’s completely new to me,” said Luperico, of his role as a project liaison. “I used to be at the front desk and now I am more hands on. I feel it shows I am learning something that requires a lot of responsibility.”

The students are using agile project methodology, a technique that breaks large projects into smaller milestones that must be completed in a “sprint” of two weeks. The students will conduct five sprints throughout the semester and will present the final outcomes of their projects on May 6, from 9 a.m. to noon, on the second floor of MacQuarrie Hall.

“This is my first time doing something like this,” said Justin Tennant, ’17 Computer Science. “I am unfamiliar with software development so this is eye opening for me. I feel like I am learning a lot.”

The students spent their first two-week sprint researching agile project methodology while getting familiar with Cisco Spark, as well as other applications such as Google Calendar and Slack.

“I like that we focus on what we can get done quickly rather than the whole project,” said Eric Fonseca, ’17 Computer Science.

“This IT project and working with students is providing me with a great opportunity to develop the leadership skills needed in my future endeavors,” Flores said.

“I am very happy to be assigned the task to work and lead IT students in this project,” Krishna said. “It helps me develop my managing skills and be a team player.”