The International Buzz

Story by Charlotte Martinez/ Photos by Michelle Rutt

Michelle1“There are three categories,” Emily Powell, advisor for the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, begins when describing Laureate’s Network programs. Powell’s desk in Mouton, as her advisees know, is tidy so little impedes her elbow space as she counts.

“The first we call International like a student coming from China, for example. Then there’s the network students who come from Laureate Universities.” Her third finger extends to complete the categories, “and there’s study abroad, where our students go somewhere else.”

Now in its third year of international immersion, SFUAD’s new owner, Laureate, provides an exchange of students on a world scale, inviting cultural as well as academic advancement. Currently, most of SFUAD’s network population comes from Mexico. “Some from Brazil,” Powell says, “only four from Turkey and one from Italy.”

“One from Germany, China, Russia, Syria…all over.” Pablo Torrez, the International student coordinator, continues. His tasks of setting up visas and transferring credits connects him most to La Universidad del Valle in Mexico, but both Torrez and Powell believe this is due to Santa Fe’s proximity. Torrez hopes more bridges will extend to Santa Fe in the future, that way “everyone can learn from everyone.” He calculates that SFUAD’s International population, currently 11%, will continue growing as the school does.

Of course, school exchange is also influenced by options. Juliana Ruette, a second semester student from Brazil says that there were very few choices offered in her previous school, “which was in a city close to Sao Paulo.” She wanted to leave Brazil, so she googled Santa Fe and thought, “what the fuck! It’s so brown!” Agreeing that Santa Fe would be better than Brazil, she planned on attended SFUAD for one semester then escaping to California.

Those plans changed.

With marketing and advertising under her belt, as well as many years of working and living in the states, Ruette sought classes in her field of architecture, but was placed in…drum roll please…film instead! Luckily for her, the film opportunities in Albuquerque and on campus with Shoot the Stars, a film collaboration with stars Wes Studi and Luke Kirby, ignited a love she had as a child: playing and designing video games. “I thought if I went into game design I would be,” she smiles, “the starving artist, or whatever.” The reason Ruette now stays? Simply, “things happen here.”

Photography, graphic design and film are the fields most chosen by incoming Internationals, a fact which Powell thinks is due to the universality of visual arts and the little interference of language barriers. Shannon Olson, Director of English as a Second Language, explains that though incoming Internationals must go through an English course, they are not restricted to vocabulary tests. In these classes students are taught professor/student relationship, research techniques, and the importance of asking questions. It prepares them, Olson explains, for the interactions necessary to create art in a new environment.

And for some Internationals, this University has become their official school.

“I can name the ten students who have transferred,” Emily Powell says, “Becca, Suzelle, Marco…” She stops. “There’s one right now.” Powell leans toward the door as a friendly-looking young woman breezes with a smile. “Anna!” Powell calls.

Michelle2Anna Hernandez is a filmmaker and animation artist. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s been at the University since 2010 and has been acknowledged for her projects, many of which have been featured or submitted into venues such as the Vision Festival and Frontier. Her latest ten minute documentary on an Albuquerque balloon maker has been entered into a contest in France.

Her decision to stay at the University was partially due to her frustrations with her school in Mexico City. “I was tired of just presenting my project,” she says and goes on to explain that she was given very little feedback or opportunities to do something with them. Hernandez says when she found the Santa Fe University she “saw an opportunity and I took it.” Originally an industrial design major, Hernandez finds she’s now interested in post production and animation.

The frustrations of her visa and transfer papers are almost worth it, Hernandez explains, when it means her work will continue to grow. With two semesters left until graduation, she hopes to find a job here in the states, at which time Hernandez will officially be called SFUAD Alumni.