Meliza Fermin was one of Penn State’s first batch of art students trained in digital media — technology that was new in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Today, Fermin, Class of 2004, is an award-winning professional compositor. She won an Emmy award for her work on the TV show “Heroes” in 2009 and was nominated for another this year.
“At first, honestly, I went [to Penn State] for the College of Engineering,” Fermin said.
She said she changed her mind after taking a class on engineering design and drawing.
“I just wanted to do art, so I switched,” she said.
After making the switch to visual arts as a freshman, Fermin said she began to explore the possibilities of an art major and then decided to pursue integrative arts, where students were able to “put together their own classes,” Fermin said.
According to Associate Professor of Art Carlos Rosas, the College of Arts and Architecture now has several separate majors that encompass some of the ideas Fermin learned earlier in integrative arts.
Art student McKenzie Thorpe is currently enrolled in one such major –– interdisciplinary studio.
“Technology and digital work is the future. It’s ubiquitous — in television, in movies, everything,” Thorpe (freshman-interdisciplinary studio) said. “There’s a ton of jobs you can get; its’ just a matter of learning the technology.”
Fermin also said she has seen an increase in technology at Penn State since she was enrolled as a student.
One class Fermin found particularly helpful was a digital media course taught by Rosas.
“When I first got here, Penn State hadn’t been doing a lot of video editing, so she was really part of that guinea pig run of courses,” Rosas said. “Looking back at the course roster, I think the whole group [has been] doing very well.”
Since her graduation, Fermin moved to Los Angeles and began to work in the entertainment industry, in the field of visual effects.
“When I first moved into L.A., I looked into the alumni database,” Fermin said. Fermin then contacted Mark Forker, who worked for a company called Digital Domain at the time and now has titles such as “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings” on his resume, she said.
Fermin said Forker gave her a tour of the company and that was a “big inspiration” to her.
“[When] you’re just starting out, contact alumni because they’re so friendly and ready to help,” she said.
Rosas also stressed the importance of networking.
“It’s less scary if you know you’re not the first one to go through this,” he said.
Earlier this month, Fermin said she attended an alumni event for the College of Arts and Architecture.
“When you go to these events, you have so much range — old alums and new alums, and they all chant, ‘We are Penn State,’” Fermin said.
Rosas said he was glad to hear that his former student has been successful in the difficult industry.
“It’s a tough industry to make a 12-year career out of and I think she’s had a good run so far,” Rosas said. “If you keep going, there’s going to be a place for you.”
Fermin said students should make sure digital art is a passion of theirs before seriously pursuing a major in the field.
“[The hours are long, but] it’s very rewarding in the end when you see your shot on TV or the big screen,” Fermin said.