Communication and the Future with CDM Department Chair Laura Huaracha
By Madison Kobe ’18
One of the most impressive and interesting people to talk to at Carthage are the professors, especially the professors that have been at Carthage for many years. Professors are clearly excellent sources for academic purposes, but they also always have stories to tell and advice to give. Professor Laura Huaracha is one of these resources, with work experience from a variety of employers. Professor Huaracha came to Carthage in 2007, after two years as an adjunct instructor at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Chicago. She was an instructor at MapleWoods Community College in Kansas City, Mo., and has worked at The Grand Group, a Chicago marketing design firm; and the Potbelly Sandwich Works chain. Professor Huaracha was kind enough to meet with me and answer some questions I had about her experience at Carthage and what brought her here.
How has past work and projects influenced your teaching method?
My method in teaching is to pretty much share all I have in my past to help the students in their future. I use all my past work experiences in the classroom, and I’m not shy about telling my failure stories as well! I failed a lot of projects in a lot of ways! I was even fired from a web design position in Kansas City one time, (with four people in a room giving me a list of reasons I was being let go, even though they had given me a day off the week before for doing a good job). I know now that horrible experience happened for a reason- for me to get stronger, move to Chicago, and start a new life. It also helped me understand people and relationships in the workplace, and that I have to use my gut when I think someone has unethical intentions. I share all that with my students, and along with it, I enforce certain rules in my classroom. I will never be as harsh a boss as the one that fired me, but I can prepare students to work with superiors in the working world. Moving on from my failures- I have succeeded in so many ways as well, and have so many projects I am proud to say I created. Sometimes you have to go through some crap to get to the good stuff- it is true in the creative process, and it is true in a job search.
What made you want to teach college students?
Well I got the bug to teach starting in 2nd grade with the amazing Sr. Julia. She was so warm and loving- and super smart! I idealized her. I wanted to be just like her, except without being a nun. Then when I fell in love with graphic design, it only made sense to want to teach in college. I enjoy the maturity of students, and the level of work I can get from college students. I don’t have to manage the classroom as much and can focus on the content.
What have been some highlights of your career?
Every year the Graphic Design Senior Show becomes the highlight of my career. Every year the students amaze me and I can barely sleep as I am so proud of their work. This fall I was pleasantly surprised when a group of graphic design freshman completed work that made me beam with pride as well. I love it when I am in awe of my student’s creations. It is an amazing feeling to see their own pride in their work and know that I had something to do with that.
What are some obstacles one faces with a career in Communication and Digital Media (CDM)?
As with many majors with a career in CDM, students are asked to have a wide range of skillset. That is why we have such a diverse amount of fundamental courses- with students learning to use their voices in a variety of ways. Graphic design students learn communication theory and public relation students learn to use Adobe Illustrator. Why? Because the industry is demanding it. That is a challenge. Just look at what is required on sites such as BigShoesMidwest.com.
What types of internship opportunities are available for students?
We have such a broad range of past internship experiences ranging in areas from a student’s home town to Chicago and Milwaukee. Past public relations students have had internships at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Kenosha Area Soccer League, and Shedd Aquarium. Past communication majors have had internships at Aflac Insurance, Sportsradio 1250 WSSP, and 95 Will Rock. Past graphic design students have had internships at The Onion, Remy Bumpo Theatre, and Leo Burnett Worldwide. And that is only to name a few- as we have connections with around 40 companies. Students have also had screen media, sports media, and photography internships.
How does Carthage prepare CDM students for careers in the real world?
The CDM department is realistic in what the real world will be like- we give many real world projects to try to set students up for a smooth transition. In many classes, students work directly with clients, which they can find challenging yet very rewarding.