Campus Celebrities - Where are they now? An update from Connor Buss

Name: Connor Buss

Age: 23…but he doesn’t believe in age

Majors: Graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2014 with a B.A. in Film & Communication Studies

Hometown: Severna Park, Maryland (near Annapolis)

Current location: West Coast, U.S.A (Santa Monica, CA)

Last year, he was featured as a Campus Cutie, but his exciting post-graduation accomplishments and gainful employment have landed him a spot in the Campus Celebrities – Where are they now? beat. Read on to see what Connor misses about UNCW and what he’s been up to. He shares insights on defining success, and fun stories – check it out!

HC: What are some of your recent achievements since graduation?

CB: Recently, I've begun building and painting American flags out of pallet wood in an attempt to become the next big thing in the Pinterest universe, I'd like to think I'm slowly closing in on that life goal.

Aside from taking a job in Santa Monica, CA, I've been fortunate enough to work on several extremely rewarding projects including a national training video to eliminate sexual abuse and victimization in juvenile justice facilities, and some creative work with an LA Muralist. I was also a part of a Halloween party skit that won People's Choice Awards for a reenactment of Sia's Chandelier Music Video.

Connor also mentioned he can now cross “jumping out of a plane” off of his list.

HC: What is your current job title and description?

CB: “The Dude”…no description necessary [laughs] Collegiate Project Coordinator-Red Bull North America. I oversee Red Bull's Student Brand Manager program nationally and drive strategy, innovation and the gift of smiles across the program while still holding onto my independent production company.

HC: What do you miss about college?

CB: Oh damn, that's a tough call! Tricky too because graduating was the best and worst at the same time! I think it's the opportunities to have to get involved in whatever you want. College gives you so many opportunities to be engaged with other people it's almost ridiculous how much stuff you can actually do.

 I still try to keep that same engagement today, but something the energy of it all on a college campus that really makes it special. Corporate America people don't really know that magic. I miss the friendships and the relationships a lot, too. I made so many life-long friends in those formative years of my life that's it's hard to not hang with them every day. Communities are universal, you just have to find the one that fits for you.

I'll say with confidence that UNCW introduced me to some of the most amazing people I've ever met and attributed some of the best years of my life. But I think the very best are yet to come...they always are.

HC: What are some things you'd like to share about life after college?

CB: Every time in your life has a transition period attached to it. Going from middle school to high school, high school to college, college to what some people like to call "the real world," they all have a period where you have to acclimate yourself to it. Be ready for that period, don't try to jump into anything too quickly, this is a period where you can really learn what kind of person you are and what's important to you.

It may feel unsettling at first, and you'll definitely miss those times for a little, but the beauty is that you create new times, new memories, new relationships, new adventures, and in some cases, you get to reinvent yourself. Embrace that change, don't fight it, and you will see that you'll grow so much as a person, and learn what it means to be yourself. Appreciate the little things too, never take even the simplest pleasures in life for granted. Lastly, never be afraid to fail. This is a time in life where tough decisions are unavoidable, and sometimes you just have to jump.

HC: UNCW has many film majors. What do they need to know about the industry?

CB: Haha! I still don't think I know much about this mysterious industry, but what I've learned from being out here is that anything could happen. You could sit down next to somebody at a coffee shop and leave with a business partner. You could be on set, rub elbows with the EP or somebody, then be whisked off on a jet the next day (I'm still waiting for this to happen to me but I'm optimistic.)  It's sounds cliché but it's so true, the networks you create in this so-called "industry" are so beneficial and truly anything can happen. But don't neglect your dreams. If you believe in an idea and can inspire other people to believe in it, the sky is the limit. You also have to be willing to make sacrifices, work your ass off, and put yourself out there.

Nobody is going to come knocking on your door with work, no matter how good you are at what you do. You've got to put yourself out there first. Or you could just make a YouTube series, I guess...


HC: Who is someone you've met that has been vital to your success, or a mentor, and how did you meet them?

CB: This is tricky because I have a whole group of people at UNCW I would say have been vital to my success: Dr. Bill Bolduc, Frank Trimble, Dr. Rick Olsen, Dave Monahan, Terry Linehan, Shannon Silva, Mrs. Debbie Cardamone, Chip Bobbert, Dustin Miller, and my close group of friends and colleagues.

But since I've been in my current position (my first professional position...ever), my first boss, Sean Carter, taught me quite a bit about what it means to be motivated, to be a workhorse, and how to navigate this crazy f------g city.

Before he left (from LA to Chicago), he told me a few things I'll never forget, but one that has stuck so close to my heart is this: "Surround yourself with passionate people. This is how you grow, this is how you find yourself." Ain't that the truth?


HC: Anything else you'd like to share?

CB: People spend a lot of time, too much time in my opinion, worrying about success. What the hell does success even mean?What did it mean before we became so obsessed with stuff that it came to define our view of success? What did it mean before constant pressure from society told us to graduate and get a job that you'll work the rest of your life to someday have enough money to be "comfortable"?

One of the most prevalent changes I've noticed in myself when I moved out west is that I've redefined what that simple word means. It's not about how much money I have or the car I drive, or what type of whiskey I buy when I go to the bar. I remember one Friday night not too long ago that I'll have to share. My roommate and I have a small place near the beach in the Dogtown neighborhood and we've done as much as we possibly can to make it at least look cool.

Just like in college, I have a tight knit group of friends who have all relocated here from somewhere else, so it's a unique group with different kinds of people, and I couldn't ask for better people in this behemoth of a city.

But I'll never forget, one night we had 12 people over for dinner and drinks, and 12 people in a small  place is a lot, and it definitely had the potential to be a bit crammed. But something just felt so great about so many people in such a small place, sitting on the floor, nudged between other people, squeezing 5 people on a 3 person couch, nobody cared how crammed they were. There was so much love, so much positive energy in that space, that I couldn't help but smile at this wonderful life that we get to share with our fellow humans.

Success is your soul realizing and telling you that, within these simple moments, everything in life is exactly how it should be, and you should be thankful for that moment and every single moment thereafter.

Success is actually very simple when you really shave off the fat.

It's not a question of any physical or monetary gain.

It's not indicated by social status or perceived wealth. Success is experiences, joy, laughter, friendship, good food; it's the simple things in life that we encounter on a daily basis but look beyond them in favor of material wealth.

I get by in this crazy city. I make enough to pay my bills, I have a great job, a car, and a roof over my head, which I'm thankful for every single day.

But something clicked for me when I came out here. And I sit here typing this email now with a clear head, the sun shining brightly through the window, a warm cup of coffee, and a beaming smile.

I've had some of the greatest experiences any human could ever have, and have started to enjoy those simple pleasures more and more.

 I've found that I don't need a lot to feel successful. I don't need a lot to be happy. But sitting here typing as the energy of our sun seems to focus on me entirely, I know that I am both of these things. I am happy. And because of this, and ONLY this, I can proudly say that I am successful. 


Photos courtesy of Connor Buss.