Alumni connected and reconnected with some of our undergraduates and faculty earlier this month when MCLA’s arts management program presented the Positive Deviants Career Panel. A positive deviant is an individual who utilizes uncommon – but successful – behaviors or strategies that enable them to find a route to success that differs from those of their peers, despite facing similar challenges, and without having extra resources or knowledge.
The main intent of this event, said organizer Diane Scott, MCLA assistant professor of arts management, was for young alumni who work in the field to share their personal experiences with students on how they built and secured their creative careers in the Berkshires.
This year’s positive deviants were Krystal Henriquez ’16, Jacob Fennel ’16, Chris Handschuh ’16 and Kayla Quinn ’16 – all of whom work in various positions at MASS MoCA – as well as Rebecca McBrien ’14, the public programs assistant at Edith Wharton’s The Mount.
Whether they secured their jobs as a result of serving an internship, filling in for someone on temporary leave, or taking advantage of networking opportunities, all emphasized the importance of showing initiative by jumping in and lending a hand when they saw a job needing to be done.
Flexibility also is important, explained Quinn, who at the last minute switched her career focus to arts education. “Whenever you feel like it’s not the right path for you, change it. Arts management is so broad,” she said. McBrien advised attendees to try everything: “Even if you don’t know what you want to do, those are experiences you have in your back pocket.”
According to Scott, “I tell my students to jump into work and always offer a hand; to realize the relationships they’re making today with professors and in internships are going to matter in their post-graduation job hunt; and that they should start to think about and actively look for positions before they graduate. But those same messages, coming from people who are only a few years older than they are, were so much more meaningful.”
Each one of the 45 undergraduates, Scott explained, found a member of the panel they could identify with, and took away specific lessons for how to act as they forward in their MCLA education or their post-graduation experience. “Younger students were there to glean information on what they could do while at MCLA to pave their way into the job market. Upperclassmen were specifically interested in the actual post-graduation job market and job hunt,” she said.
Overall, Scott said, this first event was a huge success. “It gave current FPA majors and minors a lot to think about as they enter their collegiate career, or, in some cases, have their MCLA education come to a close and plan what’s next.”
Plans are in the works for a second event, to be held next year. “I already have a list of new positive deviants to invite!” Scott exclaimed. “Luckily, we have lots of great folks joining the positive deviant ranks every year.”