Tag Archives: guest speaker

From Student to Speaker – Inspiring the Artists of Tomorrow

From Student to Speaker

By Christopher Pickhardt

I was invited to speak at my Alma mater, William Paterson University, as part of a panel discussion with other alumni, where we would share our achievements since graduation with students and elaborate on how we incorporated all we learned at the University into our careers. This enlightening event took place yesterday in the shadow of New York City in Wayne, New Jersey – just a short ride over the George Washington Bridge.

This engaging conversation between my fellow alumni and I and the crowded room of students (of varied majors) and faculty, was immensely enjoyable. There were three of us seated at the front of the Martini room (William Paterson’s cozy multi-media theater) in Hobart Hall aka the Communications building and we couldn’t have been more diverse in our chosen professions, yet as similar in our stories. We took turns telling our tales, reviewing our days at the University and each imparted tidbits of useful information and wisdom to these young studious minds.

The students were privy to the “war stories” of a career broadcast journalist who had most notably reported from the Wall Street trading floor on 9/11 and from the front lines of 2005’s Indonesian and Indian Tsunami disaster, where she stayed for seven weeks. The kids also heard from a career salesman and marketing guru who moonlighted as a children’s author – all after serving in the Marines when he was young. And they heard my story, as an actor, a writer, filmmaker and freelance videographer.

It was truly a privilege to be able to go back in time for a moment and recount my days in William Paterson’s Hobart Hall and praise the professors whom inspired me – like Chriss Williams, my film-making professor or John Rhodes, my adviser and journalism professor who helped me secure my internship at Late Night with Conan O’Brien when he was still at NBC in new York. These two pros, among others, showed me that you can make a difference in the world and provoke a spark within the artist that will eventually produce the grand flames of creativity within.

I was able to share my experiences as a struggling actor, filmmaker and freelance videographer and how important it is to remain focused on your career path. I answered many questions on craft, technique and especially how I market myself in the fast-paced world of social media we are currently in right now, where self-promotion is absolutely vital because nobody will work as hard for you as YOU.
Additionally I broke down my daily, weekly and monthly routines and how they related to my overall BIG PICTURE goals. How it is so easy to fall into the time-wasting traps that the internet offers and how fast we can slip into procrastination.

And lastly I explained how vital it was to ensure that an artist not only considers oneself a business person but that the artist dutifully maintains his creative endeavors in a manner that works AS a BUSINESS, and not merely as a hobby. This is of paramount importance if one wants to not only be successful, but desires to be seen as a creative professional and hence, taken seriously within the industry.

If there was one piece of advice I was able to relay to the students that for me, held real value was simply how important it was to believe in yourself. If you do not believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your dreams, nobody will. My belief in my talents, my dedication and passion are what have guided me on my journey through the failures and successes and kept me afloat during the hard times when it seemed my career aspirations were out of reach.

I also said to them how special it is to be an artist and how audacious it is to pursue a career in the arts, where the odds of success are often spewed onto the budding artist with the grimmest of patinas, yet it is the inherent rebellious nature of the artist to face the obstacles and naysayers with a stiff upper lip and proceed forward regardless – for the artistic hunger will surely override the roadblocks that the real world enjoys throwing at the creative soul.

In all, it was a great feeling, being up there with my peers in front of all those students during our afternoon panel discussion and later on during an evening panel as well, where I was the sole speaker. It is my hope, that together, the three of us left these kids with a sense that it IS possible to achieve success if you are willing to put in the work, to take the time to hone whatever craft is relevant to your chosen profession and how necessary it was to find a strong work ethic; which they must develop in school because it is the discipline that will follow them throughout their life in all their various endeavors. If they could take away even a morsel of these themes from our discussions and apply them to their lives, there is no reason that one day they could not end up sitting in the very seats we were sitting in, speaking to a future generation of William Paterson students about THEIR success. That would make me very happy.

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An Evening at my Alma Mater

Chris Kim Lesley Stahl
From L to R: My girlfriend Kimberly, Lesley Stahl and I at the reception that preceded the wonderful lecture.

By Christopher Pickhardt

Last night I had a wonderful experience at my Alma mater, William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey (which I graduated from in 2002 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications). Along with several other alumni, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend a lecture and discussion with “60 Minutes” broadcast journalist and co-editor Lesley Stahl, as part of William Paterson’s annual Distinguished Lecturer Series.

This was a very interesting and engaging lecture, which was preceded by a dinner with the Dean and other William Paterson faculty and administrative staff. Ms. Stahl’s lively lecture covered her long and varied career at CBS which began right as the Watergate scandal was breaking and also covered the challenges of being a female journalist in a mostly male-dominated field in the 70’s and concluded with her respected contributions to “60 Minutes,” where she still contributes today. There were some fascinating tidbits, immensely useful advice for students and a terrific Q&A afterwards, where Ms. Stahl shared that she is in the midst of completing a new book which will chronicle her life as a grandparent.

I think the most interesting topic for me was the evolution of journalism from its print heyday to the fast-paced digital realm it is vastly residing in today. Ms. Stahl’s lecture really made an impact on me and enticed deep reflection about the media era of today. In the age of the internet, where any and all information is only a fingertip away, we tend to forget how far “information” has come. It is almost alien to imagine a time where news traveled slowly via countless local and nation newspapers, from telegrams and wires and largely from mouth-to-mouth. We tend to take for granted how much work and effort was put into researching a story and checking the facts in advance of an impending print deadline. Today with the click of a button one can find just about any information they want on the world wide web, written by God knows who and often without the smallest hint of credibility. Of course the major news outlets still follow traditional journalistic guidelines as they manage their internet counterparts, but they are but a fraction of the news-gathering entities online today in the wild, wild west of the world wide web.

The Information Age is a double-edged sword at best and an abomination to fact-based education at its worst and it is up to us individuals now to do the fact-checking, because with the onslaught of content and the enchanting power of advertising dollars, domains are pumping out legions of “click-bait” articles designed to allegedly increase their readership (with eye-catching headlines) and in turn attract the coveted revenue dollars instead of focusing on putting out actual information. In many cases sadly, MISINFORMATION is the law of the land, as readers flock to get their fix of slanted and or distorted versions of stories that may or may not align with the actual facts of the day and usually just serve to feverishly stir the pot of whatever the topic of the day happens to be. More than ever before, readers must be vigilant and shrewd when seeking news and lean on skepticism until proven otherwise. In other words, question everything. Which in a way, is kind of what journalism is all about. The tough questions are usually the right ones to ask. Yes, it was truly a memorable evening and one I was honored to be a part of.

One unexpected bonus from this grand evening occurred during a conversation I had with the head of alumni relations – whom after hearing a brief synopsis of my experience and achievements since graduation, asked me to participate in an upcoming alumni panel discussion where we would share our accomplishments with current students, answer questions and flesh out how we incorporated our educations at William Paterson into our careers. Having participated in a similar event in the past on two separate occasions at another local college [where I co-taught a workshop on independent film-making], I was eager to be a part of it.

I always enjoy public speaking and anyone who knows me is aware that I am not exactly an introvert. I have always been comfortable talking in front of people and love inspiring others with my world view or past experiences – which is always thrilling, especially if they can occur in the same discussion.

You may see the University’s official event page below:

http://www.wpunj.edu/news/detail.dot?id=6b6b6438-e9bf-4a76-8e28-5e9376d6642a