The Road to Portfolio Show

By: Georgia Schumacher

May 26, 2015

students in portfolio class

For many students across The Art Institutes system of schools, Portfolio Show is a defining moment, an event students have been working toward since they first started taking courses in Media Arts, Design, Fashion, or Culinary.

On this day, students showcase their best work, demonstrate what they’ve learned and accomplished during their programs, and celebrate the approach of graduation and the next phase of their lives. Today, we take a look at the path leading up to Portfolio Show and then at what goes on—and who shows up—for the big day!

Starting on Day One

At The Art Institutes, helping you to build a portfolio is one of the many ways we prepare you for a creative career. “There’s a component of every class related to your portfolio. It’s always a part of the conversation,” explains Aaron Pompey, Director of Student Retention at The Art Institutes, adding that instructors are always giving guidance on how students can prepare for specific careers. He says, “They tell students this is what you need to be doing, and, if you’re not there yet, here’s what we need to do to get you there.”

Throughout the curriculum, students work on course projects and assignments, knowing that they should consider whether the final result effectively demonstrates their skills and is a good match for their portfolio. As they near the end of their program, every student will have accumulated a body of work relevant to their field.

It’s at this point that all students in diploma, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree programs take portfolio class—a familiar experience for bachelor’s degree students, who also take a portfolio course approximately halfway through their program.

Selecting and Updating Portfolio Pieces

In portfolio class, students work on creating and updating their portfolios alongside classmates from their program, receiving one-on-one attention and guidance from their instructor.

“During portfolio class, students are asked to look back at the curriculum and use what they learned in all of their classes as a whole,” says Pompey. “They’re given the opportunity to revise key projects, using the new skills and knowledge they’ve learned since they originally completed the project. For example, a designer who now has greater mastery of Photoshop can return to a prior assignment and make adjustments that take that piece to the next level, to make it the best work they can do.”

Throughout the course, instructors work with students to understand their professional aspirations and ensure that each student constructs a portfolio matching their career goals.

Presenting Your Work

If the first half of portfolio class is selecting and developing the content of your portfolio, the next part is all about presentation. Students are required to consider questions ranging from “How is your portfolio and display set up?” to “Do you have business cards?” to “What does your resume say about you?”

Pompey adds, “Your work needs to reflect you as a candidate. For employers, that’s more than just the quality of your work. It’s also about demonstrating creative problem-solving and critical-thinking skills through your work and talking about your process. For many employers, that aspect is just as important and can be the deciding factor between two people with similar talents or technical skills.”

The Rewards of Your Hard Work

At some campuses, showing at Portfolio Show is a requirement for the portfolio course, and, in these instances, students are evaluated not just on their portfolios, but also on their professional dress and presentation at the show. With local and regional employers attending the event in search of creative talent to bring to their organizations, presentation and professionalism can influence much more than a student’s grade—they impact the way potential employers perceive them and their work.

The show is a great way for employers to get to know our students and our programs,” says Pompey. “Students may be interviewed by employers on the spot and sometimes will even get jobs as a direct result of the portfolio show.” When the event is held on campus, employers also get to tour the classrooms and technology labs and can schedule interviews with students outside of the actual show.

In addition to employers, many instructors, family members, friends, and fellow classmates stop by to see the work on display. For many campuses, the awards ceremony is also one of the highlights of the day. During the event, Academic Directors and Program Coordinators review student portfolios and select winners to receive the Best of Show award for each program.

“The great aspect of awards being given out on site is that when you receive the award, you’re not only being honored in front of your peers and your family, but also in front of potential employers. That’s a great opportunity,” points out Pompey.

Want to See Portfolio Show for Yourself?

Our students come to our schools with a creative drive and innovative ideas, and we provide the guidance and tools to help them realize their vision. Portfolio Show is your chance to see the results. Find out event dates and times at Prospective and current students, family members, friends, and industry professionals are all welcome to attend—we hope to see you there!

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By: Georgia Schumacher

May 26, 2015

careers classes portfolio student life student work