The Art Institute of Phoenix
My approach is that life is a series of unscripted presentations. Paul Barton , Instructor , The Art Institute of Phoenix
I gave a speech in 7th grade when I was running for student council that moved my home-run teacher to tears. I realized that even a 12-year-old boy with the right words and a little passion could have a powerful impact on people. It is one thing to impart important information, but to move people on a deep emotional level is simply awesome.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?
I worked at six large corporations before launching my own communications consulting business and becoming an adjunct instructor. I’ve hired and worked with many graphic designers, web designers, photographers, videographers and caterers during my 20-year career. On the first day of class, we go around the room and discuss how the skills we’re going to learn will impact each and every student regardless of their program. In the real world, being able to write and speak effectively are essential skills to get a job, get promoted, land clients, retain customers, get a project approved, and work well with others. It’s a very competitive world out there and being able to communicate effectively can make the difference between getting ahead or going home.
Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
Effective speaking isn’t just about standing at a podium in front of an audience. My approach is that life is a series of unscripted presentations. We don’t get to carry teleprompters and scripts around with us on the job. So in addition to presentations, we also cover basic business interactions—shaking hands, introducing yourself, exchanging business cards, and telling your story. Done correctly, these small things can have a big impact on how people perceive you. I like to see students out of their chairs, on their feet and interacting with one another.
What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?
It’s very cool to watch the students from various disciplines come together to contribute to a team. They bring complementary skills and such a wide range of creativity. I never know what they’re going to come up with, and I learn new things from them every day.
In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?
Sometimes, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. You don’t always know what life is going to throw at you. You have to stay positive, be flexible and never stop learning new things. In class and in life, I tell my students there should be only two acceptable outcomes from any experience—you either win, or you learn.