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An Open Letter to Centre for Digital Media Alumni: Thank You for Your Continued Support

Dec 08, 2020 By Elyse Economides

This is both a note of appreciation and an IOU to our amazing alumni network.

Disclaimer: this letter covers only some of what our amazing alumni group has done over the past few months, and I apologise in advance to those who I may miss in this acknowledgement.

Act One: The Challenge

Although 2020 presented many tough questions and new challenges, our alumni responded with unique answers and creative opportunities. They helped our current students, faculty and staff by sharing their time, their expertise and their personal stories. They continued to support each other and their newer Master of Digital Media (MDM) peers (through our new alumni mentoring program), and they made amazing contributions within both our program and society as a whole.

For Al Sinoy, a Cohort 3 alumnus, the decision to stay involved remotely was easy. "I wanted to make myself available for the MDM community as much as I was supported by my peers and mentors when I needed help during my master's program journey. Most of the mentees I collaborated with just needed a patient friend who could help them calm the anxious thoughts regarding their journey. The best way for me to do that was to share stories of both my “failures” and my highlights that led me to where I’m at in my career now."

Alumni mentoring at Kafka's

Past alumni mentoring sessions often took place at our favourite on-campus coffee shop, Kafka’s.

We would usually provide coffee cards to our on-campus Kafka’s for alumni mentors who meet up with students, so to them I say, consider this an IOU.

Act Two: The Pivot

In the fall, we would typically see many new faces “IRL,” and we would host a welcome to Vancouver BBQ and networking event on campus. As this was not possible due to ongoing restrictions, Darren Decoursey (Senior Web & User Experience Designer at Dialpad and Cohort 9 alumnus) offered up a Pecha Kucha style talk about his past Sensate Digital start-up and hosted a “get to know you” meet-up session as a casual way for the new students to meet our alumni.

CDM 2014 Welcome Back BBQ

In previous years, we would welcome news students to CDM with a barbeque on our patio.

Since no BBQ was possible, I add this to our IOU.

Act Three: The Reimagination

In a traditional year, we would be hosting weekly “lunch-and-learn” sessions in Centre for Digital Media (CDM)’s classrooms as a way to bring in industry perspectives and add important extracurricular networking elements to complement in-class teachings. With many students starting their studies at home and abroad, we adjusted these sessions to take place in an evening format, and our alumni volunteered their time and provided encouragement and motivation throughout the term. Our reimagined Alumni Guest Speaker Series represented a variety of career paths, life challenges and learnings, and we are incredibly proud and grateful for who our alumni have become and how they give back.

Mentors during past "lunch-and-learn" sessions

Our alumni from the first cohort through to our most recent graduates continue to inspire MDM students.

We would usually thank the “lunch-and-learn” guest speakers with some CDM swag and other recognition, so I add them to the IOU.

Act Four: The Legacy

For those who may have missed the speakers due to the timing, technical or scheduling challenges, and for those who may want to partake in the future, we offer recorded versions of these Alumni Guest Speaker sessions. Alumni are listed alphabetically by first name and with current job title and cohort number noted.

Andrew Von Rosenbach – Senior Project Manager at Vox Media (Cohort 3)

Al Sinoy – Senior Scrum Master at TELUS Digital (Cohort 3)

Bettsina Walkinson – Product Designer at Apple (Cohort 7)

Eduardo ‘Lalo’ Romero – Production Coordinator at ILM (Cohort 11)

Isabelle Allès – Pipeline TD at Double Negative (Cohort 7) *winner of a Canadian Screen award for her work on Vikings*

Ivy Sang – UX Research Manager at EA (Cohort 7)

Nabamalika 'Bony' Banerjee – Program Manager at Apple (Cohort 7)

Wayland Bang – Technical Artist at EA & Basel Alnashashibi – 3D Artist at EA (both Cohort 13)

We also have alumni, like Damon Lavenski (Cohort 8), who offered and supported various workshops during the term. Damon has worked on a wide range of projects including: Sausage Party at Nitrogen Studios; A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix) at Psyop Studios; Black Panther & Avengers: Infinity War at Method Studios; and Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Aquaman at MPC. This year, he led a Time Management in Post-Production workshop for our current students.

We welcomed other amazing guest speakers like Liliana Conlisk-Gallegos, a SIGGRAPH 2020 speaker and associate professor who spoke about Indigenous culture, activism, and advocacy, and who was referred by MDM Cohort 14 member Julia Read.

CDM Alumni Zoom Panel

Just one of the many Zoom gatherings of 2020.

The speakers and sessions above do not fully capture the extent to which our alumni give back. There were multiple in-class Zoom and workshop guests and our alumni guests participated in boards, committees and hosted professional development online meet-ups. The MDM alumni network represents what is possible when good people connect and support each other, and although everyone was remote this year, they made us feel closer and connected in more ways than we could have anticipated. Our alumni can and do make amazing things happen, and despite the 2020 challenges, they collectively made our year better.

Thank you, MDM alumni, I(we)OU all,

Dennis Chenard

Director of Industry Relations

P.S. I want to send a final IOU and “thank you” to Josh Miller (our colleague and friend to many MDM alumni) for all his support and his editing of the video sessions that now exist for all to enjoy, and to Kristen Pilling (our colleague, friend and connoisseur of rosés) for making our alumni mentor pairings happen!