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Karen Chesney: SCAD Professor & Former Student Gives A Little Perspective

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SCAD ATL chapter.

Karen Chesney, a former grad student at SCAD, is now a teacher for CMPA and color theory classes at the SCAD Atlanta campus.  She is also a painter and digital artist. Here are some things she learned during her time at SCAD.

OT: What did you major in while at SCAD?

KC: I started in Animation but switched to Visual Effects after one quarter.  I graduated with an MFA in VSFX with my thesis being on Digital Doubles and Virtual Actors.

OT: What did you do with your SCAD degree/ what were some of your proudest accomplishments post completing your major?

KC: I worked on a few freelance projects. I am now teaching at SCAD.  As SCAD was my dream school growing up, I am very proud to be a professor at SCAD

OT: How has SCAD changed since you graduated?

KC: I don’t know that it has.  I think there is an ever-growing network of SCAD grads in the fields in which we study.  That is cool because if you are interested in working in the industry of choice, chances are that you will have a SCAD grad working there as well. 

OT: What inspired you to become a teacher at SCAD?

KC: I have been teaching in a variety of subjects and settings since graduating from my undergrad at UGA.  Besides teaching in the fields of healthcare, public safety and education, I’ve taught art for many years to folks from 3 years old to adults.  I love to teach.  SCAD was always my dream school and after earning my MFA from SCAD, the logical place to teach was at SCAD.  SCAD is an amazing school and I am very proud to be a part of it.

OT: Is there one thing that inspired you during your time at SCAD that you hope to inspire others with or one thing you learned that stuck with you?

KC: I was always impressed with the quality of connections that the professors at SCAD had.  My professors personally knew folks from ILM and Pixar, the Mill and Blue Sky.  On any given week there would be guest speaking at SCAD or reviewing portfolios from major studios.  It taught me the value of networking and reminded me that the digital art industry is a ‘small world’ and you want to make sure that your name is associated with quality work.

OT: Do you have any advice or stories you’d like to share about your experiences at SCAD or about your experiences with college or being a teacher in general?

KC: As a student, I never once pulled an ‘all nighter’.  I worked very hard to manage my work/life balance.  I realized that I didn’t do quality work at 3am.  I made sure to work hard during the day and to go home at a decent time.  My husband and I had our daughter half way through grad school which changed many of our goals and plans.  Even with having a newborn, I worked hard to keep a healthy balance.  I think that’s terribly important. 

As a former student and now teacher, my advice to new students is to take Foundation classes seriously.  They may seem tedious or a nuisance, but the skills you learn in foundations, both digital and traditional are skills that will really benefit you not only here at SCAD but beyond.  I’ve talked to many a senior that has said “I wish I’d paid more attention in Drawing…or CMPA etc.”. 

Lastly, I recommend that all students take some class that is out of their normal major. If you are an animator, take a painting class.  If you are into printmaking, take a motion media class.  SCAD has so much to offer and broadening your artistic horizons is always a good thing.  Take advantage of all of the workshops, contests, guest speakers and visiting artists that SCAD provides.