During the week of Halloween, Director of Career Services Deanne Brown greeted visitors to her office dressed in a purple peacock costume, offering students a platter of homemade confections, stout marshmallow creatures with orange and yellow, candy corn-inspired bottoms. She’d been looking forward to dressing up for the holiday ever since moving back to New Mexico this summer from Montana, where she worked in an atmosphere that she says was less than creative.
“I’ve just been jazzed being around all of the artists again,” Brown says. “Seeing people that are passionate about what they’re doing makes me passionate about it…It’s fun to see people who can express themselves, where you don’t get stared at if you’re wearing funny shoes.”
This semester, Brown took over the director of career services position from Joanie Spain who left the school at the end of the previous school year. Brown’s work with students ranges from assisting with resume construction to setting students up with internships to helping out with job searches after graduation.
“So many people are under the impression that you’ve got to be a starving artist, and it’s just not true,” Brown says.
She moved to Montana after getting a wild hair to do something completely different with her life. After a little exploration, Brown ended up working at a community college, helping low-income students recognize their career potential.
“In Montana, I would get all of these young people coming to me, who were super artistic and creative, but they’d say, ‘My counselor said I really need to think about something where I can get a paycheck and pay back my school loans.’ But when you really start looking and surrounding yourself with the people that are making it happen in their careers of choice, keep them around you. Because the people who aren’t doing it and haven’t done it are going to be really quick to tell you it can’t be done.”
Brown graduated from the College of Santa Fe and lived and worked in Santa Fe for 15 years before moving to Montana. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Studio Art in 2001, but says she realized while taking a philosophy class that her real passion lay in teaching and advising. After graduation, she worked alternately between the Santa Fe Art Institute and the College of Santa Fe. She assisted the school’s art department in digitizing its slide library, then briefly taught Art History.
A wildly colorful conglomeration of vinyl shapes on Plexiglass hangs behind her on the wall of her office, the work of her former student, Jared Trujillo.
“He was always trying to get me to buy his art. And I saw this thing, and I love bright colors, so I’m like, ‘Yeah, I think I’ll buy it.’ I told him, though, ‘You need to promote yourself. Put a tag with your name on it up there, because people always ask me about it.’”
At the beginning of the school year, most of the students visiting Brown’s office were freshmen who’d met her at orientation, but now she says it’s all over the place.
“I meet a lot of freshman or incoming students who are excited to learn about what they can do in their field. Here I am, I’m majoring in Contemporary Music or I’m majoring in Photography, but they say I can’t do an internship until I’m a junior. So I try to get them connected with what’s happening in Santa Fe and what’s happening nearby, so they can start getting experience and start meeting people who are doing the things that they want to do.”
Senior Studio Arts major David Jack will graduate in Dec. 2016. He hopes to bring his unique stylistic blend of action sports and fine art to Austin, Texas after graduation, but in the meantime he needs an internship to complete his degree plan.
“I’m kind of off to a late start right now,” Jack says. “I don’t know too much about the Santa Fe art scene, so it’s good to talk to somebody who can point you in the direction of where you want to go. [Brown] has tons of experience and it definitely shows.”
Other students, like Senior Creative Writing major Felicia Mackey, may not have any specific career goals in sight, but are still looking to prepare themselves for the job market. Mackey says she met Brown a couple of weeks ago at a job fair in Fogelson Library, and at the prompting of her mother, decided to consult with Brown.
“I had a resume, but it wasn’t great,” Mackey says, “so she’s helping me make it more modern and more useful to get a job pertaining to my major.”
Mackey says she meets with Brown on a weekly basis to develop her resume and eventually explore which jobs she can pursue when she moves back to California.
Whether students plan to remain in Santa Fe, return to their hometowns or move somewhere else entirely, Brown draws from a wide palette of resources to assist in finding jobs.
“A lot of times there are places that have wonderful opportunities that just aren’t on our radar,” Brown says. “With the job search, it’s not just one-stop shopping. We look at specific industry-related boards, we look at Craigslist (in a careful manner), we look at Indeed, and all of the normal ones, but also specific within your major.”
Also, if a student decides they want to live in a specific city, Brown directs them to arts and culture boards for that area.
After graduation, senior Performing Arts major Rhianna Westbrook plans to move to Atlanta, an area that is growing its acting community.
“They call it the Hollywood of the south,” Westbrook says. “I’ve almost never met anyone there who wasn’t some type of artist.”
Though she’s already interviewed with Atlanta’s CLICK models agency, Westbrook is currently working with Brown to obtain a work study position with Engage Santa Fe, a local high school that assists college dropouts in obtaining their degrees.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of a program such as theirs,” Westbrook says. “I watched my sister and brother struggle through life, and I know that sometimes you just need somebody there to help.”
Brown acknowledges that students have many different interests that might not follow the typical career path expected for a particular major.
“Oftentimes we’ve been told if we majored in this, that’s exactly what we have to find a career in, and that’s not always the case,” Brown says. “If I’m a designer and an artist, but I’m really interested in social justice, I don’t necessarily have to pick one or the other. I can ask, ‘How can I blend those together to do something fulfilling?’ It’s important to figure out what is going to make you feel fulfilled at the end of the day.”
Brown hopes to host some workshops for students in the near future with the assistance of Campus Life coordinator Malcom Morgan, though she’s still working on firming up the dates and times. She says she wants to do something that’s engaging, but also fun.
“People think career services is all torture and resumes,” she says, “but it’s really exciting to start getting out there and talking to people…There’s tons of jobs in the creative fields, we just don’t recognize them all the time. But when you actually look, they’re everywhere around us.”