Data #7: Interviewing Tara Lewis

Recently, I interviewed Tara Lewis, the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Education for ATEC (Arts and Technology) & EMAC (Emerging Media and Communications).[1] I first met Lewis as one of the guest speakers back in my Introduction to ATEC class (course #: ATEC 2320) in the Fall of 2009.

Highlights of the Interview
Some of the important things Lewis discussed were:

  • What to do in building portfolios and preparing for your desired career.
  • What classes and organizations can help you in improving your portfolio.

The Interview
This interview was communicated by e-mail. Minor edits have been made for quality purposes.

Susan: In your personal opinion, what do you think is the most important thing that Arts & Technology (ATEC) students need to do or have to find their desired job?
Tara: In my opinion there are a few things that are very important. Students need to have a demo reel/portfolio of their very best work. It needs to be a few minutes of work that was not done in class. Studios want to see something really good and different. Networking is also very important. A networking contact can really help you get your foot in the door; but keep in mind that networking is a two-way street. It is about building a professional relationship to share information. A good resume is vital as well. The Career Center is a really good resource to use. They have resume editors, internships, job postings, seminars, and career coaches to help you in your job search.

Susan: What is your advice to ATEC students in building their individual portfolios?
Tara: Start working on it your second semester. Even if you do not have much to put in it. Starting early helps you get used to the process and you can refine it as you go along. Have as many people look at it as possible and listen to their feedback. I’m not the expert, but over the years I’ve picked up information from faculty and industry.

Susan: What was your experience in building a portfolio?
Tara: I haven’t really had much practice with portfolio building. I had a studio art portfolio from high school that got me a small scholarship for college. I worked hard to include my best pieces and to display them well. When I was looking for a job after graduate school I had a binder with examples of programs and things I worked on during my internships. Because I did my graduate study in student development it included writing samples, brochures I created, recommendation letters, etc.

Susan: What are some of the common mistakes ATEC students make when building their art portfolios?
Tara: What I hear from Todd and Eric is that students will try to put everything in there or that they will include things from class. They say that it needs to be your best work and it should stand out.

Susan: I noticed that ATEC seems to emphasize 3D modeling, animation, and gaming. What about students who are interested in other kinds of art like fine arts, 2D animation, or graphics design? How would these students build their portfolios?
Tara: I would recommend taking courses in those areas and in some cases talking with faculty about doing an independent study. Bruce Barnes heads up the 2D animation area and Eric Farrar has been teaching a motion graphics course.

Susan: What classes or resources do ATEC students have in building their art portfolios and preparing for their future careers?
Tara: The Career Center, as previously mentioned, professors, grad students and the Student Animator’s Guild are good resources; and there is a Careers for ATEC majors class that is taught in the Spring. The class touches on portfolio development but covers much more than that in relation to career development.

Susan: What is the course number and section for the Careers for ATEC class?
Tara: ISAH 3131

Susan: I know that ATEC students will have to take a class called the Capstone Project (course #: ATEC 4380) in their final semester. What does the class offer? In other words, how does it help students? How would the class help students build and strengthen their portfolios?
Tara: The Capstone Project is in essence an independent study. Students work with a faculty member on a project. The project should be top quality and serves as a capstone to all the other courses students have taken that will assist them to design and complete a superb final piece for their portfolio.

Susan: What should ATEC students be doing now to have the best job opportunities?
Tara: Work really hard in and outside of class (there are very competitive industries), get involved in activities that connect you to other people and opportunities, get to know your professors and the graduate students in ATEC. Make sure you have a passion for it.


  1. University of Texas at Dallas Art & Technology. (n.d.). Home Page – The University of Texas at Dallas. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from
  2. Lewis, Tara. E-mail interview by Susan Lee. 22 Mar. 2011.

1 Comment »

  1. I’ve been interviewing a lot of people actually already as well. Who knows what information and opportunities they can give to us. I love the way we are moving in Arts and Technology, such a new major and great journey. Keep up the great work and interviews it makes our blog posts worth while as we keep moving in class with our projects and Writing for the Web work ethic.

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