Archive for the ‘Student Life’ Category

Goodbye to Cogswell

Friday, May 8th, 2015

It passed by in a flash, just like I’d expected it to when I first arrived here. To be honest, some days did drag on especially long—mostly during finals week when I was running on empty and animating furiously at 3 in the morning. Even during the roughest spots of my education here at Cogswell, I always felt blessed that I was doing what I loved and never regretted the amount of work that went into it. Whenever I had doubts, I would remind myself, ‘you could be in nursing school right now,’ and instantly whatever difficult project I was working on didn’t seem so bad anymore. Getting to do what I loved every single day was a luxury that it seems I’d fought my entire life to have.

I definitely learned some important and valuable lessons during my time here. Some I’ve noticed as a bystander, others up close and personally. I’d like to list a few here.

1. Don’t wait for things to change, be proactive and be the change.
One of the biggest problems I’d see around school were plenty of students complaining about their lives or the way things were run. A lot of whining, but very few people taking the time to make a change or coming up with solutions for problems. This may sound harsh, but if people put the same amount of energy into just making things happen rather than constantly expressing dissatisfaction, we’d be in a different place altogether.

2. The connections you make now will carry on to the future.
You know the kids you’re going to school with? Take a good look, because chances are you’ll be working with them later. Don’t be a jerk. Share cookies. Give positive feedback rather than dismissing their efforts at what they’re trying to do. The relationship you’re forming now could be the key to establishing good connections in the industry later.

3. Don’t be arrogant.
Yes, be confident in your work and what you can bring to the table… but please don’t be that person that’s so absorbed in their work that they come off sounding hypercritical and judgmental all the time. Always be willing to take criticism and advice, and be supportive instead of condemning. You’ll be kicking yourself later when you try to get into an industry full of extremely talented people who by contrast are actually willing to listen and learn.

4. Always be willing to work hard.
It will pay off. If you want to be an artist badly enough, a strong work ethic comes automatically. The desire to design or create will overpower the one to veg out and binge-watch the entire series of Doctor Who (just barely) Remember that you are competing against tons of people talented and obsessed with their craft. You just have to be better and even more obsessed!

While it’s exciting to get out into the real world and make things happen, it’s also difficult to leave the school where I’ve spent the last three years of my life. As the building is going to be demolished, it’s sad knowing that everything’s going to be torn down and that the place I’ve practically lived in will no longer exist. Cogswell will continue of course, but this building in particular holds special memories.

To the remaining and future students; work hard, play hard, and I want to see you guys do some great stuff! Go Cogswell!

Sierra Gaston

Pixar Resume Presentation

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Source: Pixar Times

On April the 29th, I attended a presentation at Pixar by two leading HR recruiters in the industry who specified the do’s and don’ts of the application process. The presentation was highly informative and answered many burning questions that any applicants might have for companies looking to hire. I took notes on what the recruiters said they were looking for, and would like to share them with other Cogswell students.

• Include all of work experience with dates, keep updated. Don’t worry so much about formatting.
• Put work experience before schooling.
• Make contact info easy to find.
• List software skills. (Maya, Zbrush, etc) Make sure of proficiency. Some people put level of experience next to the software.
• Clubs, interests, awards are good to list.
• Font doesn’t matter, readability does.
• Prior work experience that isn’t industry experience is acceptable.
• References aren’t necessary, they come later in the hiring process.
• If you took time off to travel, include in resume.
• High school details don’t really matter.
• Objectives, if included, should be focused. It’s ok not to have it.
• Personal logos don’t matter so much.
• If you have experience/education in one thing but really have interest in another, present that.
Cover Letter
• In production, the cover letter is everything. It’s all recruiters have to know your personality.
• Summarize who you are, what you do, and why you want to do the job. Don’t go on about your life story, but clearly explain why you would be the best candidate.
• It is very good to have a cover letter, and you should always have one available. Sometimes, hiring managers do skip reading the cover letter and go straight to the resume.
• Don’t be a fanboy.
• Don’t be arrogant. The cover letter is about your story and you—tell it like one.
• Humility and being humble will take you far.
Demo Reels
• Should be around 2 minutes. Quality is better than quantity. Most recent work in the front if possible, things that you’re really proud of.
• Do call-outs in your demo reel, clarifying what you did if you’re presenting group work. Be honest about what you’ve done, specify your job.
• Sound isn’t necessary, unless it’s lip-syncing.
• ONLY include best stuff. Don’t put in filler material.
• If submitting on a website, having demo reels separated into different subjects/different areas might be good.
• They can see all the positions you’ve applied to. Don’t go applying for every job available at the studio. Be certain about what you want.
• It’s ok if the demo reel is super short, only include best work.
• Social media can influence a decision.
• Be well-presented. Dress well, care about hygiene and personal appearance.
• Come prepared. Make sure links, material is all set and ready to go.
• Do research on the company. Know about the films and their work.
• Come early, rather than late.
• Show interest, speak about what you’re applying for. Know about your position.
• Ask genuine questions, ones you can’t find on the website.
• Be humble!!
• Make eye contact with everyone.
• Write a thank-you email to the recruiters. It’s okay to follow up.
• Check-in emails are good. If you got really close in the interview process, every 3-6 months you can stay in contact with recruiters.

Sierra Gaston

Tour with Gree International

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Image source:

Thanks to my attendance at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco last month, I was able to meet the Director of Engineering from Gree mobile. After he helped me with a portfolio review, I asked if it was possible to tour the studio to see how their pipeline worked. During spring break, I was given a personal tour of the facility where their 300+ person team works. I got to see how Gree International functions as a whole and how the artists collaborate with each other.

After signing a nondisclosure form and mentally getting over the fact that their employees get a never-ending supply of snacks, beverages and coffee as well as free meals, I was able to meet with Gree’s Production Artist. She walked me through their pipeline, explained how art reviews were performed, and went over how long it generally takes to create a game. I also learned about their outsourcing and how many artists were actually in the studio.

Near the end of the tour, I was able to get a look at one of the Art Lead’s workspace where he had several characters and environments drafts that the other artists had submitted to him. His job was to maintain consistency in the established art style, so he would do paint-over corrections and send it back to the artists to make the changes.

At the end of the tour, I got a free burrito (yay!) and left more enlightened about the studio and really impressed with the level of work that came out of Gree. I hope to be back one day soon!

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell College welcomes Wajid Raza, a Lighting Technical Director at ILM

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015




Sunnyvale, CA, March 16, 2015 — Cogswell College, a leading educational institution offering a unique curriculum of Digital Art & Animation, Digital Audio Technology, Game Design & Development, Digital Media Management, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship & Innovation, will host Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) Technical Director Wajid Raza for a Special Guest Lecture. Karen Keister, Cogswell’s Program Director and Assistant Professor in the school’s Digital Arts & Animation Dept., made the announcement. Keister’s department regularly features one guest speaker each semester who has prominently established him/herself within the entertainment and digital arts industry.

The lecture, entitled “The VFX Pipeline,” will take place on Wednesday, March 25, from 7:30-9:30pm in the Dragon’s Den Theatre on the Cogswell College campus. Raza will discuss how the work of each artist on a large project fits into a chain of complex tasks that, when brought together, will create the ultimate visual effects. He will also cover how a visual effects studio is structured and what contributions are made by each of the studio’s different departments.


Wajid Raza is currently working as ILM’s Lighting Technical Director on the upcoming Marvel Entertainment motion picture “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015.) He first joined the renowned and multi-award winning visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic in 2009 as part of its technology group. Since then, he has worked as an Assistant Technical Director, Production Engineer and Technical Director on many of ILM’s tent-pole projects. Raza was an integral part of the team behind the Academy Award winning film “Rango” (2011) and the Academy Award nominated film “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013.)

For the film “Rango,” Raza wrote software for the Layout Team and served as a Final Layout artist to bring the director’s vision from concept art to digital 3D scenes. He helped troubleshoot issues in a newly developed monolithic-process for working in multiple shots at the same time. One of the tools he wrote for Layout enabled them to create specialized cameras for the locked-off static shots in the movie. This technique enabled the addition of a “micro-float” treatment to the CG cameras, so their movements mimicked real-life camera movements.

Similarly, for the movie “Star Trek Into Darkness,” Raza led efforts in developing new software and production workflows tailored for the film. He helped set up a distributed fracture system pipeline that was employed in key scenes.

Raza is a graduate of Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD) where he received his MFA. Earlier, he completed his BS Degree in Computer Science from Government College University in Lahore, Pakistan, the city in which he was born. Currently, he is a resident of San Francisco.


2015 “AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON” (currently in production) – Lighting Technical Director
2014 “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES” – Production Engineer (Technology)
2013 “NOW YOU SEE ME” – Production Support (Technology)
2013 “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” – Digital Artist (Technology)
2012 “BATTLESHIP” – Assistant Technical Director
2011 “RANGO” – Layout Artist


Designed as a “fiercely collaborative, living laboratory,” Cogswell College is located in the heart of the legendary Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California. The school is a WASC accredited, four-year institution of higher education with a specialized curriculum that offers programs in Digital Art and Animation, Digital Audio Technology, Game Design & Development, Digital Media Management, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Numerous alumni of Cogswell College have secured prominent positions within the entertainment, videogame, technology, computer, animation, and motion graphics industries throughout California and beyond. Several of these alumni have established careers with such high profile companies as Activision, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Electronic Arts, Pixar, and Microsoft Game Studio. Many other alumni have launched their own creative ventures.

Recent Cogswell alumni were members of the Academy Award-winning production teams which worked on the blockbuster films “Frozen” and “Life of Pi.” Some of the other well-known consumer projects to which Cogswell alumni have contributed include the feature films “The Boxtrolls” and “The Avengers,” and the popular videogames “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4” and “Battlefield Hardline.”

Additionally, animated short films conceived and produced by Cogswell students have gone on to win prestigious awards, including those presented by the California International Animation Festival, the Colorado Film Festival, the Oregon Film Festival, the Miami Film Festival, the Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival, the San Jose Short Film Festival, and Canada’s International Film Festival.

Cogswell College is located at 1175 Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, California, 94089. For more information, please call 1-800-264-7955 or visit:

# # #

Contact for Cogswell College:
Rachael Sass
Creative Services Manager
Sunnyvale, CA

Media Contact for Cogswell College:
Dan Harary
The Asbury PR Agency
Beverly Hills, CA

Happy Pie Day!

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Happy Pie Day Everyone!! Midterms are over, Spring Break is right around the corner, and as many would agree, pie is delicious. It can be sweet and evoke memories of simpler times like an apple pie with a buttery flaky crust, just like the ones grandma would make. Or it can be hearty and savory, such as a chicken pot pie packed with flavor. There are fruit pies, meat pies, and many more varieties in between: coconut cream or ice cream pie anyone? Whatever your preferred pastry, one can’t help but wonder, where did this scrumptious dish come from and what were the first sorts of pies?

According to historians, pie-making can be traced back to ancient Greece, thought to have been the originators of the crust, who made it by combining water and flour. Meanwhile, the Romans would fill their pies with many different kinds of meats (even mussels and other types of seafood). Meat pies were often part of Roman dessert courses which they called secundae mensae. Fast forward to the first Thanksgiving here in the United States in 1621. Everyone knows that among the various dishes shared between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims, there was pumpkin pie right?

In reality there is no evidence showing that modern day pie, or even early versions of it, was served at the first Thanksgiving. Pilgrims brought a variety of English-style, meat-based recipes with them to the colonies. The first record of pumpkin pie here in the US was in a cookbook from 1675, originating from British spiced and boiled squash; it wasn’t popularized until the early 1800′s. We don’t know what dishes the Pilgrims served at the first Thanksgiving, but primary documents show they cooked with fowl and venison, and inevitably these ingredients found themselves stuffed in between sheets of dough.

The colonists cooked many pies not only because they were tasty, mind you, but because the crusty top would aid in the preservation of food. This would help to keep the filling fresh, particularly during winter months. Were these early American pies bland? Not exactly. Documents show that Pilgrims would use dried fruits, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg to season their meats. As the colonies began to expand, so did the reach of pie. The pie acted as an outlet to showcase local ingredients and, with this, the first American sweet pies began to appear.

A cookbook from 1796 listed a mere three types of sweet pies; one from the late 1800′s listed 8 varieties; and by 1947, the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking listed 65 different kinds of sweet pies. So the saying goes, “There are few things as American as apple pie”, however, like much of America’s pie tradition, the original apple pie recipes hailed from England. These pre-Revolutionary creations were simple, unsweetened apples encased in an edible flour crust. Pies today are a treat eaten around the globe, made with everything from apples to avocados. Pies have come a long way since the heyday of venison and pepper, but whatever the case, there’s surely a pie out there for everyone.

As for me? Kahlua Cream Cheese pie is my favorite. Go out and grab your favorite everybody! Happy Pie Day!

Juan Rubio

Cogswell Alumni Mixer

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

On Saturday, April 11th, something pretty exciting will be happening here at Cogswell.

In an effort to create stronger connections between alumni, students and the school, Cogswell will be hosting a mixer event honoring our past students and future graduates. So what can we expect to see at this event?

In addition to having the opportunity to connect with alumni working in the industry from all degree concentrations, students can attend a panel at which graduates will speak about their experiences since leaving the school. All attendees will also have the option to showcase their portfolios and demo reels during the event. (Since this is also this last semester we’ll be in the old building, we will have a pretty fun activity that might involving writing all over the walls—more details on that later!)

Students, be sure to polish those portfolios up pretty well—we will have alumni attending this event who might be interested in hiring!

Sierra Gaston

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Art by Cogswell Student Jose Hernandez

Happy New Year!!! Did everyone make new resolutions? Did anyone actually stick with last years?

We made it to another new year and I, for one, am more excited than I have been in ages. New beginnings! New opportunities! New friends and more! I’m a bit more than halfway done with my bachelor’s degree here at Cogswell, and I can’t wait to get started on the new semester. I hope everyone has been enjoying their break, because I know I have. See you again soon everybody.  Happy New Year and stick to those resolutions!

Juan Rubio
Digital Art & Animation Student

Global Game Jam at Cogswell College!

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Poster Image created by Jose Hernandez

Global Game Jam is a worldwide event in which over 20k “jammers” meet together in various locations around the globe to make games, and once again, we are hosting it at Cogswell! It is an intense 48 hour event in which programmers, artists, designers and audio folks are challenged to come together to build games from scratch. Best of all, every game produced is absolutely free to download once it’s finished. Admission is $40 for the general public, $20 for Cogswell Alumni, and $10 for any Cogswell or college student with a valid college email address. Price includes a pizza dinner Friday night and snacks throughout the weekend.  Don’t miss the chance to be part of something huge as space is limited to 50 participants this year. Register soon!

Digital Media Management Students attend the “Next Steps Forum”

Thursday, December 18th, 2014
Cogswell Student DeShawn Davis and Rev. Jesse Jackson

DMM student DeShawn Davis (right) meets Rev. Jesse Jackson (left).

Cogswell College Digital Media Management (DMM) program faculty and students attended the “Next Steps for Technology Forum” which was sponsored by Intel and Rainbow PUSH. Engaging in dialogue about increasing diversity in the employment and supplier pipelines over 300 people including VC’s, entrepreneurs, technology companies and community based organizations. Participants were treated to talks from Rev. Jesse Jackson and upper management from tech companies.

Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Jack Kirby Happy Holidays fan art, found on

Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Festivus for the rest of us! Finals Week is here, and the holidays are happening right now. While all of us are hard at work, studying, taking tests, giving presentations and more, we’re all looking forward to the end of it all. It’s just three more days now until we can say goodbye to the all nighters, the unhealthy amounts of coffee and the energy drinks. All of the stress and hard work that everyone has been putting forth will all be worth the effort once the semester ends on December 20th. I know I’m looking forward to home cooked meals, cozy weekends and hot cocoa, but I won’t ever forget what truly matters around this time of year.

It isn’t about the presents or the free stuff, it’s about the family and friends you spend your days with. The priceless memories that are formed each and every day, particularly around this time of year. It’s a time to look back and reflect upon the year: did I accomplish everything I set out to do? Or did I have a great year anyway? Whatever the case, take the time to seek out your friends, family and loved ones, and remind them why they matter in your life. Don’t forget to have fun and be safe my friends!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Juan Rubio