The “Business of Creativity” Panel Applauds the Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Business of Creativity PanelSaint Mary’s prides itself on being the bridge between the student and the professional. “Enter to learn, leave to serve,” reverberates in every classroom. In keeping with this standard, the School of Liberal Arts’ Bridge program (SOLA’s LAB) presented an alumni panel on “The Business of Creativity” on Monday, October 29, where intrigued students like Casey Weider ’20 filed into Hagerty Lounge. The students were treated to a five-member panel of esteemed alumni, and the night was moderated by SMC’s Dean of SOLA, Sheila Hassell Hughes. The alums came to instill wisdom and inspire the next great SMC creatives, while demonstrating SMC’s history of producing innovative thinkers in the spaces of film, television, marketing, advertising, and animation.

The night’s panelists ranged in age and experience, but all came willing to share. Pete Kelly ’98 (Fine/Studio Arts) is a senior animator at Amazon Lab 126 and came to SMC because he, like so many of us, fell in love with the campus. He emphasized that students who are educated in the liberal arts tend to be promoted to high-creativity positions, and that students need to go after their goals.

Kelly’s comments were echoed by another panelist, the most recent graduate, Alexis Salmons ’17 (Communication), who is part of the strategy and corporate development team at MRC studios. Salmons agreed with Kelly about the importance of tenacity in getting your preferred job, and about not being afraid to take that first low-level job to put yourself in the position to be promoted. “You’ve got to go where the jobs are,” she said enthusiastically.         

Another accomplished panelist and recent graduate Natalie Derksen ’16 (Communication) works as a senior account supervisor at Lafayette-based Ability Advertising. She lauded the importance of internships and of developing work experience before students graduate. Derksen also discussed the importance of women finding their distinctive voice in the workplace and believed she was able to develop hers through Seminar.

Andrew Shaffer ’09 (Business Administration) felt he lacked creative experience and realized that to get hired, he needed more than a résumé—he needed a portfolio. Shaffer studied business at SMC but credits his broad liberal arts education, and especially Seminar, for teaching him how to present his ideas to a room.

Andrew Verducci ’08 (Liberal and Civic Studies) was the only entrepreneur on the panel and currently works as a DJ. He got his start right here on KSMC, and co-owns and operates Verducci Event Production. Verducci says his fire for creating content started on campus. Upon leaving SMC, he worked with children and realized that he wanted to make children smile for a living. Verducci said that because of what he learned at Saint Mary’s, he has made that desire a reality. 

Dr. Hassell Hughes moderated the panel and also talked to students about the opportunities available from SOLA and the LAB program. She spoke to the strength of SOLA’s scholarship programs and how many other students from SOLA have successfully bridged the gap between the student world and the professional world. She reiterated that SMC is committed to getting every student to where he or she wants to go.

The Liberal Arts Bridge program is a comprehensive certificate program that promotes a bridge from the liberal arts to a meaningful professional life after College. This program has four core principles: exploration, development, preparation, and experience. The program manifests these principles by providing internship information and funding, as well as a distinct undergraduate experience. This experience is a full four-year track, which includes faculty collaboration, and engaging events, building and documenting professional skills that will make a student more desirable to employers or able to start his or her own firm.

For more information on the program, visit