Board of Overseers shares innovation insights

by Laura King / Beacon Staff • October 29, 2014

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Members of the Board of Overseers visited campus to speak to students about their working experience in the communication industry through a series of panels, workshops, and class visits on Oct. 27 and 28.

“We’re looking for how to match the overseers’ expertise with what we know the interests of Emerson students are,” Donna Heiland, vice president and special assistant to the president, said in an interview with the Beacon.

The events started on Monday night in the Cabaret with a panel entitled World of Internships: The Power of Experience. About 15 people attended to learn about applying for, and making the most out of, internships.

Panelists included Janet Scardino, chief operating officer at Saban Brands; David G. Breen, the principal designer and founder of VDA Productions; Lisa Dollinger, principal at Dollinger Strategic Communication; Michael Mara, regional manager of investments & fiduciary services at Wells Fargo; and Hunter Harris,  former intern at O, The Oprah Magazine and the Beacon’s opinion editor.

Scardino said that students who had internships have a better chance of getting a job, and jobs they get have higher starting salaries.

“You have a 100 percent chance of knowing if you like something,” Scardino said at the panel.

The panelists shared personal stories of their previous internships as case studies. Breen talked about an internship he had where he helped move sets between theaters. He said the opportunity gave him the chance to see both the positives and the negatives of the field he was going into.

“I’m always looking for internship events,” said one attendee, Kimberly Anderson, a sophomore visual and media arts major, in an interview after the event. “Learning to go out of your way to connect with people is important.”

The second panel on Tuesday morning, called Innovation Secrets That Will Make You Better at Everything You Do, took place in the Multipurpose Room with an audience of 24. 

Heiland moderated the panel with board members and Emerson alumni Mark Donovan, a technology executive, and Joshua Wachs, a digital strategist. Both Donovan and Wachs are on the executive board of Accelerator, Emerson’s entrepreneurship program.

“People associate innovation to technology, but sometimes innovation isn’t really about technology at all,” Donovan said at the panel. 

The difference between innovation and invention, according to the panelists, is that innovation has a market behind it. They said that innovation is a combination of invention, value to the customer, and value to the company.

Wachs said innovation requires a diversity of ideas.

“If everyone in a group agrees, then you are not doing enough,” Wachs said at the panel. 

In an interview with the Beacon, Donovan said the panelists strived to make the program engaging for students. 

“It’s not so much like students are walking into the board meeting, but more so like we’re walking into the students’ turf,” Donovan said. “We tried to frame the workshop out in a way that made it appealing.”

About 50 people attended Stealing Your Creative Future, a panel held in the Bill Bordy Theater on Tuesday afternoon that discussed the effects of piracy on the entertainment industry.

Dan Black, chair of the Board Of Overseers; Ruth Vitale, executive director of CreativeFuture; Prince Charles Alexander, assistant professor at Berklee College of Music; and Linda Reisman, senior distinguished producer-in-residence at Emerson were panelists at this event.

“Your generation doesn’t buy albums,” Alexander said, blaming illegal downloads for the fact that there have been no platinum albums so far in 2014.

The panel centered on the efforts of CreativeFuture, which focuses on anti-
piracy efforts, according to Vitale, who stressed the consequences of illegally downloading copyrighted content.

“It’s not a victimless crime,” she said at the panel. “The job you save may be your own.”

Overseers board members also spoke in classes on Monday and Tuesday, and hosted a lunch with students they mentor on Tuesday.

The idea for the mini-conferences came from Andrew Tiedemann, vice president for communications and marketing, who wanted to maximize the opportunity available in Emerson’s board members, according to Heiland.

“We always make sure students come, that they talk about their work, that there is an opportunity for board members to meet with students,” said Heiland. “The Board of Overseers has always been a source of mentors for our students.”