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Survival Skills


THRIVAL SKILLS Will Serve You In School and Beyond

The College of Fine Arts at Ohio University encourages students to make their mark in the world. This starts with engaging their communities in impactful new ways. Our artists claim their opportunities, use their individual experiences and backgrounds to inform their celebrated work while developing a self-disciplined artist practice, with flexibility and an open mind. 

What skills and advice would be most helpful for you? How do you balance academics, creative practice, and social life? Where do you turn for support when things get stressful? We've curated unique and thoughtful responses across all major areas, and in each of our schools in creating this list.


1. Make Connections

It was The Beatles who said, “We all get by with a little help from our friends.” Look at any great entrepreneur, successful artist, or even politician. They had to bring people together around an idea to get to where they are. People had to believe in order to bring their work into fruition. We know, everyone hates group projects, but these are the moments that are most crucial in fostering teamwork and learning how to work with people from different backgrounds with different ideas and styles of work ethic. You never know, the person you work with on that one project your sophomore year, could be your studio partner/collaborator in 10 years!

Bailey Plumley

The people here, whether it’s faculty or my classmates, have helped me be the artist that I am now. What I have learned from the people and perspectives here and the work we’ve made together, that’s what I value most. — Bailey Plumley, Undergraduate Filmmaking Student in the School of Film


2. Embrace Exploration

Exploration is the key to finding your place at the College of Fine Arts. Our College has fantastic artists, performers and creators who find their unique discipline when exploring the unfamiliar. There is a vast amount of commitment and rigor that goes into each artform. We believe each student has what it takes to excel in the arts. The College of Fine Arts is where vocalists are encouraged to explore graphic design, photographers are inspired to explore theater. You may just find something that you’ve been missing all along.

Michael Lincoln

“What we offer to every individual student is to say, you can explore what feeds you and brings you the most joy in your life to make a career.” — Michael Lincoln, Director of the School of Theater


3. Remain Flexible and Open

The most successful students remain open to the possibilities, are flexible when faced with unforeseen challenges, and never lose sight of the bigger picture—your dreams, your goals, and your definition of success. Remember, multiple paths exist to get you to where you need to be! Be confident, because at a moment’s notice you can pivot and change course with the best of them!

Quinn Hunter

The school is known for its community and for encouraging students to try something new. No one is going to question why you’re in ceramics and making paintings, you should be using the medium thats the best fit for what you’re doing. It’s very open and interdisciplinary. — Quinn Hunter, Graduate Student in the School of Art + Design


4. Communicate Authentically

Keeping lines of communication open is crucial. Whether you’re starting a job or your college career, being able to openly communicate with individuals from all walks of life is essential. Respectful, empathetic, yet grounded communication skills will help you advocate for the resources and opportunities you’ll need to attain success.

1. Body Language: Always be engaged, don’t slouch, make eye contact, and avoid distractions (put that phone away).

2. Communicate: We live in a digital era where information is flying by our desks, inboxes, and smartphones at a million miles per second. Communicate often, because, as they say, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If you’re waiting for an answer, check in again! You’ll be glad you did.

3. Honesty and immediacy: Use honesty when communicating. Reference the environment, the situation, and who you are in the moment to provide context for your communication. This will help the listener engage in understanding, helping them provide you with the best advice and the most productive solution.

Brian Evans

My goal is not to be the expert in the room, I aim for discussion at an expert level. To get the students the information and resources they need, to talk about things that challenge my ideas, so we learn together. — Brian Evans, Faculty in the School of Theater • @ohiouniversitytheater


5. Claim Your Opportunity

Going to college provides you with many opportunities. Don’t hesitate when presented with one you want to try. Embrace every opportunity and claim it. When you have trouble finding something that resonates with you, your College of Fine Arts friends and faculty will support you in finding professional development opportunities.

What will you do with that fine arts degree? It turns out, quite a lot. Educated artists do not have to be starving artists, and we stand by that. Visit The Value of the Fine Arts for more information on how to get hired and love what you do.

Nick Langer

Professors are always looking to help in any way possible. In my case, not being a music student, having the opportunity with our choral director, having that one-on-one time, it’s been amazing. — Nick Langer Undergraduate Student, Member of the @Marching110, School of Music


6. Envision Impact

Maybe you’ve been a life-long artist. Or maybe this is your big step in dedicating your career to the arts. Whoever you are in this moment, ask yourself, “What kind of impact do you want to make in your community? How do you define your community?” Asking yourself these questions will support the next level growth needed to create your most engaging work.

Angela Sprunger-2

We’re challenging students to think of art as a way of working through ideas. Helping students understand that making is making meaning in their lives and making meaning in contemporary culture, examining what their role is in their communities and how art can be a response and reflection of those roles in society in general. — Angela Sprunger, Associate Director of Co-ARTS


7. Use Your Voice

Today you are YOU, that is TRUER THAN TRUE. There is no one alive who is YOUER than You.” — Dr. Seuss

Let’s face it: The arts are competitive. You might think there are a million “yous” in New York City, Los Angeles, or even in your own community with the same goals.

We’re here to say:

Don’t exclude yourself from trying. There are not a million of you in any city, in any class, in any space. Your individual talents and experiences alone make you a formidable force in the job market. Believe this. In your program, College of Fine Arts faculty, advisors, and fellow students will help you hone your story of self. Yet before they can do that, you have to use your voice. So, don’t be shy. Be you in everything that you do.

Janai Travis

The culture here at OHIO has shown me that there is a need for my voice. — Janai Travis, Graduate Student in the School of Theater


8. Find Self-Discipline

Athens is a culturally rich community, where folks come to focus on their craft without the distraction of an urban metropolis. That being said, it’s college! It’s easy to find yourself hanging out with your friends every weekend. However, your job is to consistently bring your focus back to why you’re here.

Make sure, on day one, to create a schedule and live by it. Schedule time for fun, but also schedule time for studying and personal projects that will further your expertise in your discipline.

Remember, it’s okay to say “no” to things. You can’t do everything. You have to put yourself and your schedule that you have built for your betterment first.

Laura Larson

There’s something really special about the town and the region itself. One of the reasons it’s really appealing to students: on one hand it feels very quiet and safe; however, there’s an intensity to it. There’s no kind of distractions here like urban distractions that you would get in a city. People come here to work. Even the undergraduates feel that sense of purpose — Laura Larson, Faculty in the School of Art + Design • @ohiouniversity_art.design


9. Inspire the Culture

The environment where you learn should stimulate your growth. It should be a safe space where you feel comfortable to make mistakes and take part in critical thought. But it’s up to everyone in that space to allow these vital activities to happen. Through the mutual understanding of respect, empathy, belonging, and truth, we can allow each individual in our spaces to be themselves wholeheartedly. It starts with us. Create the culture that everyone needs to grow and thrive.

Semajah Parker

Everyone is so supportive and uplifting. We take every precaution and every little detail into account for each student. They make sure each student is successful. And we’re a very close community, we make sure everybody’s safe. — Semajah Parker, Undergraduate Student in the School of Music • Instagram


10. Reflect Often

Take the time you need. Be thoughtful about what you do during your college career. Four years flies by and you won’t remember half of it if you don’t take time to reflect on your experiences.

Keep a journal and write down your accomplishments, learning milestones, and how you felt in those moments. Your goal is to walk away with a collection of moments that you can come back to in your graduate education or professional career to inform your thinking and decision-making.

It’s in moments of reflection where we truly see growth come around full-circle.

Duane McDiarmid

This is a place of reflection for me, and then I initiate my next fore. Getting away from the den of how things are interpreted and how things are seen and how things are divided and then being able to observe and think about those things for yourself is pretty important. — Duane McDiarmid, Faculty in the School of Art + Design • Sculpture + Expanded Practice

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