Posts Tagged ‘bret sweet’

Digital Media Management – Program Spotlight

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Meet Digital Media Management Program Director, Bret Sweet

Bret Alexander Sweet was born in San Francisco, California. He was raised between Oakland and Sacramento, settling in San Francisco in 1997. Bret graduated from Berkeley High School in 1995. He is the son of prominent Bay Area civil rights attorney and social entrepreneur, Clifford Charles Sweet.

Bret combined his passion for music and entrepreneurship at a young age by earning himself an internship at PolyGram Group Distribution’s San Francisco office in the summer of 1995. Three months later he was an artist development rep focusing on the company’s urban division associated with Island Def Jam artists. He left PolyGram shortly after the merger to focus more on his college career at San Francisco State University and open his own label. Throughout his studies, Bret invested his time working in various community development organizations as well as running his own independent record label, House Kemetic Suns. Although House Kemetic Suns never reached platinum status with its artists, Bret had established the first online music distribution channel when he was 19; 6 years before Steve Jobs would bring iTunes to market.

In 2002, Bret began teaching entrepreneurship to youth and young adults from under-developed communities. In 2003, he signed on as Lead Entrepreneurship Instructor at BUILD, a non-profit organization in Menlo Park that uses entrepreneurship as vehicle for college admission for first generation students. In 2004, Bret was awarded Certified Teacher of the Year by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. In fall of 2007, Bret retired from teaching to pursue his life-long dream of an MBA at the University of San Francisco. In 2008, Bret began certifying new cohorts of future NFTE instructor as a NFTE CETI (Certified Entrepreneurship Teacher Instructor). Bret graduated from the University of San Francisco in May 2009 with his Master’s of Business Administration with a dual emphasis in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. In December 2008, he received the USF School of Management’s Dean Circle Scholarship for exemplary service in his community.

In 2007, Bret founded the Dualism Group which is early stage venture capitalism firm and consulting arm geared toward helping underserved entrepreneurs launch and expand their companies in order to bring jobs to lower income communities. One of his clients is Robert Simpson of Back A Yard Corporation which led to Bret being instrumental in the founding of Coconuts Palo Alto and the expansion of Back A Yard into San Jose. In addition he established his own property management firm called Sweet Rentality which creates tech innovations for the property rental market. Bret is currently the director of Digital Media Management programs at Cogswell College.

Q & A About the Program

Cogswell:     Managing an entrepreneurial business that manufactures or provides a service probably does not pose the same challenges as managing a digital arts venture. Can you provide a definition of ‘entrepreneur’ as it applies to the expanded Digital Media Management Program?

Sweet:          I think the term entrepreneur has become really co-opted over the last 10 or 20 years. In regards to the Digital Media Management Program here at Cogswell, it’s really the fusion of creative thinking, business systems and self-awareness within four concentrations: audio artist management, entertainment media management, game design and business modeling, and finally, interactive marketing.

Cogswell:     I’d like to know if this program is designed just for people who want to go out on their own after graduating?

Sweet:          This program is for those who want to work both independently and for those who want to be prepared to work for companies like Disney, Sony and EA. We’re teaching them the fundamentals of how to have a larger position in business, whether it’s starting their own business or working in a high level position at a global company.

Cogswell:     That’s great, because not everyone wants to go out on their own right after graduating and even the ones that do usually work for a larger company before making that jump.

Sweet           That’s right. ‘Fundamentals for the digital arts’ is a key descriptive here. Let me give you an example. We had a Dean of a business school speaking to us recently. His brother had gone to an Ivy League school, was a practicing attorney, but wanted to get into the animation field.  He had to go back and make coffee at the animation company for four years before he got hired into management because he knew nothing about animation. Imagine if he attended a law school integrated with digital arts. I don’t believe he would have been making coffee.

Cogswell:     Sounds like he needed our Digital Arts Management program, he could have probably secured a degree in less than four years.

Sweet:          Indeed, but what’s really going on out there is that you have a generation of individuals who are running media companies, largely a result of consolidation and mergers, who don’t know the fundamentals of the digital arts business. You have the artists who work in these companies who don’t know business because it’s out of their comfort zone, and then business managers who don’t know anything about where the art comes from.

Cogswell:     What specific sets of skills will digital artists learn in this program that will help them be more successful?

Sweet:          Digital arts students understand how content is created, but they may not understand how to monetize it, create a working business model around it, protect it, keep it legally viable, market it, or determine who the target customer is. It’s not like there’s a How to Run a Studio for Dummies out there. We provide the core skills of what is needed to run a digital arts enterprise and present the information in the context of the arts, where our students are most comfortable.

Cogswell:     Aren’t some skills universal, don’t all businesses need some of the same core skills regardless of what the industry is?

Sweet:          Yes, but the digital arts have a unique core skill set. If you talk to most of our students and you ask them why they’re at Cogswell, what they are not going to say is ‘I want to be a business person.’ The students look at the business world and say, ‘that’s not something I am good at.’ Cogswell’s Digital Media Management program places students at the intersection of business and the digital arts. We use the term ‘entrepreneurship’ as a vehicle to teach business to our students. The irony here is that the attitude of a game designer or someone who wants to manage musical artists is decidedly anti-business, but many of our graduates have gone on to work at Pixar, which is owned by Disney, one of the largest companies in the world. They end up with most of the same skills, but learned in a very different environment. They find out that the business skills they used to fear actually come quite natural to them.

Cogswell:     Can you share a specific example of this?

Sweet:          Sure. This summer we are offering Hip Hop: America’s Narrative Platform. It’s a humanities class, but the idea is to teach students how to do a S.W.O.T. analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) by looking at urban music. We’re teaching a core business skill through an art form.

Cogswell:     What you’ve described certainly demonstrates a larger need in the industry for this broader base of education in the digital arts community.

Sweet:          Absolutely. Just imagine that you work for an entertainment company, but the person who signs your checks worked at a television network for 20 years selling soap ads. They were great selling ads, but when the network bought your record label, they got moved, placed above you on the ladder and do not know anything about music. To them, everything is business and corporate culture. To the recording artists, everything is music and culture. The Cogswell Digital Media Management graduate becomes the conduit in between. We’re finding that there has to be a happy medium between the people who are creating the content and the people who are monetizing it. This is what our program is all about.

These Summer Classes Will Put the ‘Wow’ in Your Education

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Classes start on May 20.

Hip Hop: America’s Narrative Platform (HUM 199 C) is an exploration of the historical context of hip hop culture as the first interactive media platform in America. Walk through history from the slave narratives to the beginnings of Hip Hop and finally into its maturity. Along the way you will explore the Blues, ‘yardie’ culture and Chicano protest murals.

“As a digital media campus, we constantly discuss and learn about platforms. The first platform I learned was the elements of the hip hop culture so I wanted to share it with Cogswell students as a way to increase innovation using a culture the students already acknowledge and love.”  -Bret Sweet, Faculty

“I want to take the Hip Hop class because it is a chance for me to learn or begin to grasp everything surrounding the hip hop movement and all its forms.”  -Troy Sinclair, Student

Game Animation (DAA 499) focuses on game specific animations such as Prototypes, In-Game cycles, Paired Animations and Combat. You will use the Unity Game Engine to dig deeper into the animation pipeline, tools and associated physics. Learn to speed up your animation workflow and capture character personality and aesthetics according to direction given and delve into basic techniques like idles, hits, attacks, chain attacks and reacts.

“As a Video Game Animator working across different Genres, I feel the need for students to learn about the Game pipeline before they get out of school. The Game Animation class is designed to give students the unique opportunity to test their skills, as in an internship at a Video Game company. Students will create assets (animations) and test them in a Game engine. By working with strict directions and time constraints, they will understand the technicalities that are necessary in a Game pipeline.”  -Jonali Bhattacharyya, Faculty

“Animation for film is wonderful, but learning to animate for games involves a whole other world of techniques that animators need to employ to be successful. I wanted to take Game Animation, not only to better myself as an animator, but to expand my skill-set, learn to pose characters that need to look good from all angles of viewing and perform specific actions with a limited frame count. At the end of the semester, I look forward to making some really cool character actions that can be used in games!”  -Robert Mariazeta, Student

“Games boast interesting and inventive characters and enemies, so the challenge of understanding how to animate how each acts and reacts intrigues me.  I’m also intrigued by game animation because it is so different from animation for film and television.  There needs to be several animations to accommodate the large variety of commands a player can have over a character. I am looking forward to game animation because it will open new opportunities for me as I prepare to look for jobs and internships.”  -Amanda Martinez, Student

Audio Theater (DAT 498) If you have ever wanted to tell a story using only sound, here is your chance. During Cogswell’s summer term immerse yourself in the production and recording of short dramas and narratives using only audio tools. Along with your classmates you will be given the opportunity to develop your skills in script creation, voice acting, sound effects, background music and dialog editing. An exciting medium in itself, it is also an effective test bed for developing soundtrack skills for animation and video games.

“Audio theater is a perfect test bed for learning all types of sound track skills (dialog recording and editing, foley, sound effects and theme and background music) without the overhead of developing a visual track. Whereas a 3 – 4 minute animation might take 1 – 2 years to develop, a 3 – 4 minute audio theater piece of comparable narrative quality can be done in a month. And it must be done correctly, because there are no visuals to distract from production errors and poor quality audio content. Audio theater can be even more vivid and immersive than film or animation because everything takes place in the listener’s mind. Orson Welles’ radio performance of H. G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” caused major panic when it premiered.  Listeners who tuned in after the start did not understand that it was fiction.”  -Timothy Duncan, Faculty

“When I heard ‘War of the Worlds’ for the first time, I was amazed by the way the piece impacted people. They really got caught up in the story. I thought this is how I want to present stories like the classic radio decades of the 1950s to 1980s. I can see this class becoming the Project X of the Audio Department.”  -Nick Connors, Student

International Political Relations (SSC 399) brings you up close and personal with world’s political scene and how it affects your life. Anyone who has paid any attention to current world affairs, knows that the world is changing. The class seeks to answer such questions as; how do other nations operate, why do they make the decisions they do and what responses are available to states and the international community. The class will focus on five general areas: politics and society, the linkage between society and government, policy decisions, defense and security and international law.

“The world today is interconnected in ways that human history could not have imagined even 50 years ago. Right this minute, a student could live video conference with a friend in Moscow, close a web business deal in Buenos Aires and transfer source code and funds instantly, and that same student could fly to Beijing and arrive in less than 14 hours. Our growing closeness as ‘citizens of the world’ makes it vital that we understand the world beyond our borders because as technology advances the concept of borders becomes less and less of a significant distinction – what happens abroad, happens here.”  -Michael D. Lee, Faculty

Bret Sweet, Delivers Keynote at NAACP College Expo

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Bret Sweet (right) talks to students at the Expo.

Cogswell College Entrepreneurship professor, Bret Sweet, took center stage at the NAACP California and Hawaii Youth & College Expo at the San Mateo Marriott, October 25, 2012. In a 45-minute keynote, Sweet spoke to a room full of junior and senior high school students attending the expo to research potential colleges and to hear Professor Sweet’s motivational keynote.

Cogswell College participated in the exhibit, the booth staffed by Sweet and Cogswell software engineering student, Michelle Washington. Other participating colleges included UC Berkeley, Wesley College and Brown University, among others.

Sweet was introduced to the room full of spirited youth by the NAACP Youth & College Expo co-chair, Ariana Noble. Sweet conveyed the importance of entrepreneurship in education with clever, hard-hitting lines such as, “Ever see a broke nerd?” and “Ladies like to go out with nerds because they make money,” which brought howls of laughter to the room.

He recognized Michelle Washington from the podium, as she sat in the back of the room, and highlighted the fact that she was an engineering student and someday wanted to have her own electric car company. The room was rapt in processing this, the fact that their dreams could become reality with an education and the proper mindset.

Sweet took questions after the keynote for almost as a long as he spoke, each student visibly inspired by his presentation and the possibilities it raised for their future.

The conference was attended by the top NAACP officers and committee chairs from both the Hawaii and California chapters.

Professor Bret Sweet to Keynote at the NAACP Education Expo

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Bret Sweet, the college’s first Entrepreneurship Professor, will speak at the NAACP’s California & Hawaii Education Expo at the San Mateo Marriott in San Mateo. Sweet will speak about the value of entrepreneurship education and his own journey as an educator, entrepreneurial musician, music promoter and restaurateur at 10:00 am at the San Mateo Marriott. The college will be exhibiting at the Expo from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

“I am extremely honored to be speaking at the NAACP’s Education Expo,” Sweet said. “Creating awareness around opportunity, education and entrepreneurship is a concept very dear to my heart.” The 35-year-old Sweet has been teaching at Cogswell College since 2010.  He holds an MBA and has been a driving force for high-school entrepreneurship through NFTE (National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship) for over a decade. Sweet is also a faculty member for the college’s newly-launched Masters in Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

“My grandfather led the NAACP in his town and fed the poor from his garden,” Sweet recalled. “He raised his children to do the same. Opening doors is the family business.” Sweet’s father, Clifford Sweet, served as executive director for Legal Aid Services of Alameda County Calif., twice arguing civil rights cases in front of the California Supreme Court.  His uncle, Wester Sweet, was a San Jose attorney who marched with Martin Luther King and battled civil rights issues for over 40 years in the Bay Area.

At Cogswell College, Sweet mentors and inspires his entrepreneurship students. Of particular note is Michelle Washington, a software engineering major who was selected as a finalist in the Intel Global Challenge, a technology and entrepreneurship challenge to be held at UC Berkeley on November 2, 2012.

A Cogswell College information table will be onsite as part of the Expo’s exhibits in conjunction with Sweet’s presentations. The San Mateo Marriott is located at 1770 Amphlett Blvd., San Mateo, Calif. 94402.

Year Up with Cogswell Entrepreneurship

Monday, April 9th, 2012

On Friday March 23rd the Entrepreneurship Program was asked to visit Year Up, an organization dedicated to closing the “Opportunity Divide” by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. The students that are enrolled into the program participate in classes that prepare them for jobs in IT, managerial, and technology-based positions.  YearUp asked entrepreneurship instructor Bret Sweet to speak on his career past, present, and future and provide perspective to the current YearUp classes. YearUp has been around since 2000, originating in Boston acquiring 22 students their first  year. By 2002 the first internships organized by the program start to form and the first graduating class walked out into the world in 2004. From then on, expansion led to sites appearing in Rhode Island, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco.

The YearUp SF campus was located in a brick building on Spear Street in San Francisco; the lobby hosted a very bright blue wall with a very kind greeting staff. Bret was no stranger to Year Up since he had gone to business school with the host of the speaking event. Praise awaited him around every corner and he had received a round of applause with his entrance into the event room. As per the usual charisma that Mr. Sweet gives at all of his talks, it was no surprise that students were left almost speechless. You could see the different emotions and lessons that Bret was presenting to the young adults in their faces with his stories of hardships, early ventures into entrepreneurship, and even family troubles. To say it was an inspiring motivational talk would be an understatement. Almost immediately after the talk, the room filled with questions for Bret about if he had advice for creating a successful business, what milestones they should aim for, and questions for his student ambassador about Cogswell. Needless to say it was quite the experience for everyone.

After his talk, Bret stayed behind to experience what YearUp calls their Feedback Session where all the students and teachers take a moment to reflect on the positive events and the areas for improvement that week so they can all improve personally and professionally. This  involved every person in the room and required input from each person in order to be effective.  In YearUp’s eyes, total immersion gives the best result.  Before Bret’s departure, the students begged for his contact information so they could ask him for advice at any time and Bret being the kind man he is gave everyone a way to reach him easily.

The Entrepreneurship Department here at Cogswell would like to thank Year Up for having us at their campus and hope that they come visit us sometime in the near future!

Bret Sweet for Cogswell Entrepreneurship