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Life at Sante Fe University of Art and Design – Charles Simon on Finding Yourself in College

March 18, 2016

Charles Simon Santa FeOur next article in the popular Life in College Series profiles Dublin High School Class of 2013 graduate Charles Simon. Charles’ story follows a path popular with many students – starting in a community college and transferring o a four-year university – and how that experience has helped the transition from high school to college. How did you end up at The Santa Fe University of Art and Design? 

Charles Simon: “After graduating Dublin High School I spent a year at Las Positas College where I took a bit of everything – from dance to radio. While I was there a representative from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design came to my multimedia class and she remembered me from a college fair and was surprised I hadn’t applied to Santa Fe. That encouraged me to look into how I could transfer schools: I met with my counselors and found my credits from Las Positas would transfer pretty well and the next thing you know I’m in Santa Fe. I started in Santa Fe with a focus on music, which gave me the opportunity to work with other artists my age in an actual recording studio, and it was a cool experience. I spent a lot of time researching different opportunities and ultimately decided to focus on business arts management as my major.

“The talent at Santa Fe is incredible – music, theatre, dance, painting, creative writing – everyone I’ve met so far is amazing and I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next together, as a youth force!” So much focus in university is placed on academics. What have you learned about how the Arts can be pursued in a university setting?

Simon: “Imagine you are in a painting class, you’ll be surrounded by peers who are phenomenal painters, and that environment will either push you to the next level or make you crash. Some people realize we’re all in this together, and some people aren’t comfortable receiving constructive criticism of their work from a teacher. If you stay positive and work directly with your teacher, and respect your teacher (who is likely a working artist), you’ll get the most from the experience.

“In the major I’m pursuing I need to take introductory classes for most of the art forms. The students I see succeeding are both happy about their work and open to critical feedback; the students that struggle tend to be frustrated by feedback.” Talk about the business side of your major.

Simon: “There is a lot of practical experience in learning how to manage an arts organization. For example, we visited the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to learn how the business of running a museum actually works. Meeting the CEO of a museum or the President of a non-profit firm, learning where they came from, what they’re doing now and how we can prepare ourselves is invaluable. It’s great that we have a chance to see the theory from the classroom applied in the real world. I’m always looking for opportunities to better understand how businesses operate; when I talk to the bursar at our school I have a much better understanding now of what they are doing. Business defines how we work together as a society.” What advice would you give to yourself, if you could go back in time to your senior year of high school, based on what you’ve learned since you graduated?

Charles Simon Dublin High SchoolSimon: “Be confident in your abilities – have self-confidence. The main reason I didn’t come to Santa Fe right after high school was due to low self-confidence. I believed that there was only a certain bracket of high school students that would be successful, so when it came time to audition or send in my music scores I didn’t trust in my abilities. Even if I had a masterpiece I was telling myself that someone was better than me, that they aren’t going to pick me. When I applied to Santa Fe during my first year as Las Positas I ended up using completed tracks from my time at Dublin High School; I was accepted with the material and ability I had while in high school! It really showed me I had to believe in myself and have self-confidence, because my work was actually good. I realized that you can’t get anywhere if you are downplaying yourself before anyone has had a chance to review your work.

“Once you are confident in yourself, you’ll trust being who you actually are. I battled that all through high school, from band to sports teams to groups of friends. I’ve also learned it’s alright to fail. Going to school in Dublin you can feel this pressure of being expected to do great things, but you have to believe in yourself. I’ve seen how strong the teaching is at Dublin High because I’m more prepared than many of my peers in college.

“Even if you are intimidated when writing applications, don’t be afraid, believe in the education you’ve been given and believe in yourself.” What have you learned about the role of community colleges given your experience at Las Positas College?

Charles Simon Dublin High School graduationSimon: “First you have to ignore the stereotypes of going to a community college and ignore the assumptions about what a community college is and isn’t. Coming out of Fallon Middle School and Dublin High School there was a stigma, ‘oh, you’re going to community college? that means you didn’t do well in high school’. That isn’t true – there are many kinds of students that attend community college. Many of the classes you take in a community college or in a four year college are the same. When I transferred into Santa Fe my credits were just as valid as a student transferring from a four year school. College is all about the classes you choose and what you do to get the most out of the experience.

“After taking a year of classes at Las Positas I not only benefited from the classes but equally important how colleges work. I understood how to plan my classes and assignments, where to go for help, the value of office hours, and what is required to earn a degree. Learning all of that while still being able to live at home made the transition to living away from home in Santa Fe much easier. Part of my Las Positas experience was learning how to be a college student.

“I also really liked how the high school rivalries disappear when you get to college – whether you came from Dublin High, Dougherty Valley, Livermore or Amador Valley – it didn’t matter. We all meshed and became friends. Before college we were almost segregated into our small towns, competing high school to high school, whereas in college we came together all working towards something better.”


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