Student Career Development: A Faculty Perspective

Robert Denton Bryant

Assistant Professor and Director of Video Game Development

St. Edward’s University


Adrian D. Ramirez

Director of Career Development and College Relations

The University of Texas at San Antonio


Faculty play a critical role in student success beyond the classroom, often facilitating students’ early career questions and directing students to relevant campus resources. For career centers looking to develop better connections with potential faculty partners, consider the following:

  • What is the current scope of your faculty network?

  • How well do you know your faculty and the career experiences they promote to their students?

  • What opportunities exist to collaborate with faculty on career development programs?

I reached out to Robert Denton Bryant, Assistant Professor and Director of Video Game Development at St. Edward’s University, for insights on student career development as seen and supported by university faculty.


Adrian:

What is your sense of how students view their career goals through the lens of their academic pursuits?


Professor Bryant:

I see many students and parents conflating a college education with vocational training, and I try to preach that while the one may prepare you to work at a job, the other prepares you to live a life. I'm proud that our Video Game Development program is housed in the School of Arts and Humanities, because our curriculum is designed to help students see the connection between their liberal arts education and the wide range of potential careers they could engage in.


Adrian:

What sort of career-related questions are students raising in the classroom?


Professor Bryant:

"How do I get a job?" is the most frequent one, of course, but I try to steer the conversation beyond getting their first job to what strategies they need to manage their career. It's relatively easy to get an entry-level job in, say, game testing (where I started out), or community management. But the challenge for students is that getting a portfolio-driven job, like environmental artist or level designer, may require them to spend time during college and after honing their portfolio to the point where they're competitive.


Adrian:

Describe the typical conversation faculty may have with their students on the topic of career planning?


Professor Bryant:

The concept I return to time and again is that in order to get hired, you have to demonstrate your value to a studio, publisher, or other hiring entity. That's sometimes an uncomfortable discussion as students are often hesitant to describe what their key selling points are beyond squishy (and ubiquitous) ones like "I'm passionate!" or "I'm dedicated!"


Adrian:

How are faculty uniquely positioned to advocate for their students' career interests?


Professor Bryant:

I feel a big part of my job is staying current on trends in the industry, as well as encouraging my students to read industry news so that they can get a "lay of the land" by the time they graduate and have a good sense of what opportunities and challenges exist in the current job market. If you're just starting to research your industry in the spring of your senior year, you're stumbling out of the gate.


Adrian:

What external resources do faculty find most helpful to leverage during their career conversations with students?


Professor Bryant:

We're very fortunate to be located in Austin, Texas, which is a major hub of both game development and animation. There are a number of industry groups that regularly hold social or informational get-togethers, and students are always welcome. We also bring working professionals and alumni to campus for Q&As and panel discussions as often as we can, and I try to schedule these in the evenings, so more students are able to attend.


Adrian:

In your view, what resources are most critical to student career success?


Professor Bryant:

I think alumni networking is enormously helpful throughout a student's time in college and throughout their career. I've had good success building online communities of students in my program via a Facebook Group. Over time, as students graduate, they become alumni members and can share not just industry news but job listings and otherwise model for current students what an early career arc is like. Sadly, as Facebook gets less and less popular with college students, I haven't yet found a good substitute for this, but we're trying the same thing with Discord--a Slack-like messaging app.


Adrian:

Describe potential opportunities for college career centers to collaborate with faculty on helping their students navigate the career development process.


Professor Bryant:

Although I try to network with employers as much as possible, my time is constrained by classroom and administrative duties. I'm very grateful to be able to share information both ways with career center staff, so that we can both identify opportunities for guest speakers, internships, site visits, or even collaborations. I'm eternally grateful for the Career and Professional Development office at St. Edward's for introducing me to an Austin-based non-profit who was looking for a partner to help them make educational games that would bolster their mission of teaching pre-K children to make healthy food choices. That has turned into a four-year-long project partnership and a profound experiential learning success for our students.


Adrian:

What recommendations do you have for university and career center leadership in developing or co-coordinating career resources for students?


Professor Bryant:

Keep an open and ongoing dialog with your career center reps, be it in person, through email, or even shared access to social media. Meeting with your career center once per academic year won't do it, as opportunities pop up and important industry trends emerge overnight.


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Robert Denton Bryant has worked in Hollywood in marketing and production, and in video games as a publisher and a developer. He has been Executive Producer on dozens of games on platforms ranging from CD-ROMs to the iPad, including the bestselling World Championship Poker and Pinball Hall of Fame console franchises. He is the co-author (with Charles P. Schultz) of Game Testing All-In-One and (with Keith Giglio) of Slay the Dragon! Writing Great Video Games. He has lectured in the US and Europe on game writing and narrative design.



Adrian D. Ramirez is Director of Career Development and College Relations at The University of Texas at San Antonio. He is an inaugural cohort member of The Collective’s Career Leaders Fellowship Program.