Posts Tagged ‘Alumni’

Tour at Zynga

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Image source:

There were dogs everywhere. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise to me after seeing the huge dog logo on the massive building, but it still caught me off guard in a pleasant way. Zynga also gave off this sense of happiness—just walking in, I could tell that the people employed by Zynga were pretty content with their environment. For those of you who don’t know, Zynga happens to be one of the largest and best-known mobile and social gaming companies in the bay area– you’ve probably also seen a few games of theirs on Facebook.

A group of four people and myself from Cogswell got the chance to visit Zynga from Women in Games International, a group formed for the purpose of providing women with support and opportunities in the game industry. While there, we got a tour of the studio, which included the exercise room, bar (yes, there’s a full bar) the candy room, and the Farmville rooms!

After the tour, we got to enjoy some h’ordeuvres and listen to a panel given by women leaders at Zynga. Some of them had been in the industry for quite some time, and a few originally hadn’t had any intention of going into games. Yet another one actually played WOW as a side hobby. (Yes!)

It was amazing to see Zynga up close. It was clear to see the passion that they had for their work. We also got to do a lot of great networking, and meet people working in the heart of the mobile game industry. It was an amazing opportunity!

Sierra Gaston

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

Cogswell Alumni Work at Impressive Companies

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Recently, I’ve been researching Cogswell graduates to add to a contact list for an alumni reunion. I was pleasantly surprised and amazed at some of the names that cropped up—not only were there an impressive number of graduates working in the industry, quite a few held job titles like Lead Animator, CEO, Art Director, and even more still owned their own companies. Previous to doing this research, I’d had no idea they existed; and I thought I’d share their job titles as a resource to other Cogswell students.

In the Los Angeles and Bay Area regions, we have a number of alumni working at Disney, DreamWorks, EA, Sony Animation, Cryptic, Activision and other large, well known studios.  They are storyboard artists, technical artists, designers, animators, layout artists, riggers and hold tons of other positions. I was blown away to learn that, among others, one of our alumni is a Lead Animator at EA games. In addition, we also have alumni with positions such as: Art Director at Sony Animation Entertainment; Lead Lighter/Compositor at DreamWorks, Lead/Senior designer at Crystal Dynamics; Vice President of Production at Toonbox Entertainment; President/CEO at Logigear; Broadcast Designer at NBC; Supervising Engineer at Warner Brothers; and the list goes on. Alumni from all degree programs are talented leaders.

We are a very small college, and yet it seems we have a very large amount of alumni in comparison holding impressive positions within the industry. Most students aren’t even aware of the credits that our graduates hold. Personally, I feel like Cogswell College is a bit of a hidden gem in the Silicon Valley—not everyone knows that we’re here, but those who do find Cogswell know that they have stumbled across something unique.

~ Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College

Incoming Students! Orientation at Cogswell

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Today marks the beginning of a new semester, and the matriculation of over 30 new students! With each new incoming group comes new potential—I look forward to seeing what talent they have to offer, and what they’ll accomplish in their time here.

I remember when I came in as a transfer student three years ago, and how thrilled I was about the future; I couldn’t wait to learn and improve. Every day I came to school full of excitement, and passionate about what I was being taught. Everything was so very new. I still feel as passionate now, in my last semester, but there’s something extra special about your first year because the possibilities are open and endless. You’re not sure quite where you’re going or how much you’ll achieve at the end, but inside you’re driven by the thrill of possibility to become whatever you want to be.

For the incoming students, I’d like to say welcome and don’t be afraid to dream big. If you work hard and keep your goal in mind, opportunities will find you. Also, don’t be content to just wait for things to fall in your lap—you have to chase after what you want to accomplish.

I’m really excited to see what this new group of students will do with what they’re learning at Cogswell! Welcome freshmen!

Sierra Gaston

Star Thief Studio Animation & Interactive Book Teaser

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Star Thief Studio is one of several on-campus Project-Based Learning studios at Cogswell College. These studios mirror professional production studios and allow students to collaborate with their peers – whether they be artists, animators, technical artists, engineers and sound designers – to create outstanding large scale projects.


Star Thief Studio is guided by faculty with industry experience and student work is regularly critiqued by industry professionals. We are focused on creating engaging story-driven content in the form of animated shorts and interactive stories. Currently Star Thief Studio is working on an unannounced project which will feature a stand-alone animated short and an interactive version of the story, bundled together as an app for the iPad.

Our development artists work in a dedicated studio space and use everything from pencil, paint and clay to Maya, Zbrush, Mudbox, Photoshop, Renderman and Fusion. Much of our digital painting and sculpting is done on Cintiqs. Our engineers use tools like X Code, Flash Professional, and Maya, writing code in Objective C, C++ Maya API, Action Script, Mel Script and Python.

Star Thief Studio offers students the opportunity to be an important part of a major project that will deliver a great experience, film credit and professional quality content for their demo reel. The large group, project-based environment of Star Thief Studio gives students the opportunity to develop and exercise the skills needed to work effectively with a team over an extended period of time. Skills like communicating professionally, being a team player, taking initiative and learning to lead, as well as managing time-sensitive tasks and completing work within deadlines. In the end, students will have work for their portfolios which has been refined to an extremely high standard and used in a major animated and interactive project.

See more at:
Video created by Cogswell alumni and Cogswell students:
Rachael Sass
Andrew Long
Jose Hernandez

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

Interview with Cogswell Digital Audio student Randy Greer

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Randy Greer - Image from:

The Cogswell Pulse interviewed senior Digital Audio Technology student Randy Greer about the creation of his compilation album that was released last semester.  Randy began studying classical music in 2007, under DR. Scott K Bowen, Travis Silvers and Aaron Garner. He later shifted his focus from classical music to digital music while at Cogswell College. We asked about his experience in producing an album and the journey that he went through.

Q: What is the inspiration for your music?

A: The inspiration varies from song to song really. Because the songs have to cover a wide variety of styles, I have to draw inspiration from all over. I might listen to jazz and country back-to-back for a week straight in while I’m working on a rock song. I got one of my catchiest melodies “glock jams” from a mechanic who was whistling to my music as I wrote with my window open.

Q: What project did you create your music for? Why did you create your album?

A: I created an album for my Portfolio II class. It’s license free music to hand out to businesses to help get my name out there as a composer.

Q: How long did it take you to create? What software did you use?

A: It took me the whole semester to create the album. I wrote about 3 songs a week, but some of the songs had to be recorded. All songs had to be edited, mixed, and mastered.  The album art and website had to be created as well. I used Pro Tools 10 a lot. I also used a MIDI notation program called Guitar Pro, mastering was done with iZotope, and I used Propellerhead Reason 5 for a lot of my electronic sounds.

Q: What is your favorite part about the album?

A: My favorite part of the album was probably the country song. I had to learn to play the banjo just for that song and I fell in love with the instrument and its unique characteristics.

Q: What was the most challenging part about creating the album?

A: The most challenging part, believe it or not, was not the time constraints. It was not knowing how the music will be used. This meant I had to make music without direction even though it still had to fit parameters to stay as useful as possible.

Q: What did you learn while creating this?

A: I learned that although the people guiding you have knowledge, it is often faster and more consistent to execute your own decisions – with confidence and reason. I learned how to write a simple work-for-hire contract. I learned how to play the banjo, and I also learned how to prep meals for marathon work sessions. That might not be important to everyone but I don’t believe it’s necessary to kill your body to make good work while meeting tight deadlines.

Q: Did you create the album with the help of other people? If so, how did they contribute?

A: Having outside help was a must. I have original music falling out of my ears to the point where it’s a distraction on any given day. But finding ways to manage and present the music can be overwhelming with 45 songs at a time. I had to use other students in the audio department for mixing and mastering: Justin Floyd,  Joey White, Marc Rivas, and Andrew Wilkins were all a huge help. Often times, the school’s studios were overbooked, or equipment I reserved was rented out to someone else when I had booked a session with a professional musician.  Those other students pulled through to help me out in emergencies.

My whole class also helped with feedback on songs and how they might need reworking. It was a critical listening process. Also Katie Fortune was a huge help, she worked with me remotely to get the album art to present in a professional way.Q: What was your experience with working with other people on a project like this?  What did you learn?  What were the benefits and challenges?

A: Most of the people I worked with who were also Cogswell students were reliable and fast, however most of the people who were not from the school – like my session musicians – were flaky. They were willing to commit but reluctant to execute, without some coaxing and encouragement. The best thing I did was playing the instruments myself. I made recordings by myself. I mixed by myself. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to work with these people, but when I’m on a timeline and being graded and they are not, I can’t expect them to put the same amount of care and determination into a piece of work that I would.

Q: What would you do differently for your next album?

A: Hands down, I would write for a project that had a specific need. I like to make music that is uniform and collectively representational. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll write anything for the right price, but I only had a week to formulate this project.  At the time, I was also doing work with MediaWorks. That said, I’m currently working on an app that requires a diversity of music. Funny how that works I guess.Q: What career do you hope to get into?

A: As far as careers go, my first choice would be to create original music and sound effects for video games, followed by movies or television. I’d also be happy to be hired to write music for apps, commercials, online videos and startup promotions. Ideally I would like to work full-time for a company that has good benefits. I’m not sure how many 9-to-5′s are out there that fit that description, but I my goal is to one day start a family.  I want to be able to support them without compromise and I will need a job that can ensure that that happens.

Finals Week at Cogswell College

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Sketch by Daniela Panigada Cook found at:

The last week of school is upon us and as such, many students find themselves with work piling on top of work and increasing levels of stress. With five classes this semester and a job to stay on top of, I have no shortage of tasks to complete and deadlines to meet. Luckily, I’ve already completed one class for the semester… no class next week for Drawing For Animation! For me, this means one last project in Perspective and Rendering (Daytime/Night time building), a last essay in Ethics class, a group performance in Acting for Animation, and one last project in Video Editing, the Experimental.

To say it was an easy semester would be a lie; this semester was, by far, the most challenging for me so far. With 2 project classes – both with heavy workloads – I had my work cut out for me. But I’ve managed to stay afloat! That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this semester however. It’s been one of the most gratifying few months of my scholarly career yet.

Walking through the halls of the school I see evidence of finals taking their tolls on the students. People scrambling to finish last projects, a spike in coffee intake, and more than a handful of people napping all around the campus. I’ve already pulled one or two all-nighters, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. Finals week is almost here, and while I had a great semester overall, I can’t wait for Winter Break!

Juan Rubio
DAA 3D Animation Student

Kegan Chau, Cogswell Audio Student, Attends AES

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Cogswell’s own Kegan Chau attended the AES (Audio Engineering Society) convention this year, gaining valuable knowledge and insights about his future career. Being both a student at Cogswell and a member of the student AES chapter at Cogswell, Kegan expresses how well prepared he felt while taking on this year’s AES. Kegan is a Digital Audio Technology student at Cogswell and has been a part of several large projects at the College. Currently, he’s working with on-campus animation studio, Star Thief Studio, as both composer and sound designer.

Watch the interview on YouTube here: Kegan Chau, Digital Audio Student, Attends AES

Former Cogswell Alumni Finds Success in the Solar Energy Industry

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Former Cogswell Alumni Dean Sala, 52,  has found success in the alternative energy industry. He is both the Founder and CEO of Suntactics, a company that specializes in producing portable Solar Chargers and Solar Panels. Dean’s company and products have been featured and covered by, Mother Earth News, NBC, ABC, CBS, The Mercury News and The San Francisco Chronicle. The following is an interview as it appeared in a November issue of the magazine Kiplinger, Personal Finances, and is credited to Patricia Mertz Esswein.

You worked in high tech?

Yes, for 23 years, 15 of them as a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard. In 2008, HP shut down my whole division, and I was out of a job. I didn’t see myself going back to software, so I returned to school to finish a second degree, in electrical engineering.

Why Suntactics?

Solar power has interested me since I was a kid. When I returned so school, I teamed up with a partner to power a full size glider with solar energy. We worked on other projects, and in 2009 we formed a general partnership to focus on making a portable yet powerful solar panel to charge a phone. In 2010 my partner said, “I don’t think this is going to work,” and left amicably. Since then, I’ve developed three products that can charge devices with a USB connection. I have provisional patents on my designs, and I’ve sold almost 10,000 units, mostly via our website ( and Our chargers range in price from $140 to $240. They’ll charge an iPhone in two hours or less in direct sunlight, as fast as a wall outlet. They’re popular with outdoors enthusiasts, among others.

You made the panels yourself at first?

The cheapest solar panel laminator I could find cost $50,000 and was full size. I needed a pint-size one. So I built my first one out of parts from a pizza oven that  bought at Goodwill. I cranked out 2,000 panels in my garage.

Did you get any outside help?

To perfect my process, I picked the brains of a scientist and a couple of engineering PhDs. But in my previous career, I never saw the sales and marketing end, and now I was trying to run a business. So I appealed to Score [ a nonprofit group that mentors small businesses]. When I told them I couldn’t keep with with orders, that’s all they needed to hear. I have two counselors- one is an expert in manufacturing and the other in marketing. They helped me find a small manufacturer to produce more units under contract.

How did you finance your start up?

I took out a home-equity line of credit on my house and borrowed about $42,000. More recently, I got a line of credit that’s backed by the Small Business Administration.

Do you make a living?

In 2013, we did more than $500,000 in sales, and I paid myself about $65,000. That’s a lot less than the $100,000 I made at the peak of my career as a software engineer, but because I’m a sole proprietor I can write off a lot of stuff on my tax return.

What’s ahead?

Our next product will charge laptops. I’m gradually bringing production into my own facility because contracting it out is expensive. We need to get into retail outlets. Our products are sold in Batteries Plus stores, but it’s a struggle to get into sporting-goods and big-box stores.

Is your work rewarding?

I’d rather do this than anything else. My customers are my bosses, and I like to make them happy. Plus, I bought a company car: a Chevy Camaro that replaces the ’68 model I sold to go to college and the ’98 pickup I had been driving. It’s my dream car.

Dean’s story is proof that it’s never too late to go back to school or follow and pursue your dreams. All it takes is a bit of patience, hard work, and determination. Congratulations Dean!