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April 26, 2012
As Ian Stanek graduates from Northwest Missouri State University this spring, he can say with little doubt that he’s had a comprehensive college experience.
The Nebraska City, Neb., native earned his bachelor’s degree in interactive digital media (IDM) with a computer science emphasis. But as he leaves Northwest to embark on his career, he’s taking skills he picked up as a two-year participant in Knacktive, Northwest’s interdisciplinary communications agency, and multiple student organizations, including the Tower and Celebration choirs.
“There’s so many things you can be involved in at Northwest,” Stanek said. “There’s really something here for everyone, and it’s all of really good quality.”
As an IDM major, Stanek credits the variety of faculty who mentored him, including his advisor, Dr. Carol Spradling, an associate professor of computer science and information systems and Northwest’s 2012 recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Stanek said Spradling motivated him to join Knacktive and pushed him to gain the most out of his college education.
Additionally, he worked as a multimedia developer in the CITE office, a flash developer on Northwest’s Mission Command Battle Lab project and a student assistant in the School of Computer Science and Information Systems.
“Ian’s many experiences outside of the class have enriched his development as a student,” Spradling said. “His rich work history as well as his coursework have allowed him to garner valuable skills that made him very attractive to employers.”
As a high school student, Stanek considered attending college in Nebraska, but his involvement in music led him down a different path. He attended Northwest’s summer music camps throughout his high school career and enjoyed the campus and music faculty so much that he decided to attend Northwest to earn his college degree.
After one year as a music major at Northwest, however, Stanek began to reconsider his major.
“I realized music was just something I liked to do, not necessarily something I wanted to make my career out of,” he said. “I still liked being in the choir and I still liked performing, but I just wanted to do something else with my professional career.”
Northwest's interactive digital media program proved to be a perfect fit as Stanek built his skills and portfolio through courses in programming and design. Last year, he was accepted into Knacktive’s pilot program, and he used that experience to net a summer internship at Kansas City-based VML, where he spent time working on the Hostess Brands website.
“I learned programming skills, design skills, web design skills,” Stanek said of the IDM program. “It’s a really great major for people who want to get into a technology field because it covers so many areas, and you get a good understanding of all of them. It really gives you a lot of opportunities for a lot of things.”
Still, Stanek made it a priority to keep the ties he developed in Northwest’s music program. He joined the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity as a freshman and remained a member, serving as its webmaster and vice president. He was active in the Tower choir as well as the Madraliers and Celebration show choirs. Stanek also was a member of the Bearcat Marching Band for one year.
While the life of a college student can become hectic and stressful, Stanek referred to his membership in those music organizations as his “sanity-keeper.” Being a member of the performance groups also helped him build and refine the soft skills that impress employers. Performing with Northwest choirs also reinforced the importance of practice and teamwork to ensure the final product is one that leaves an impact on the audience, he said.
“Being involved in two things that are almost polar opposites gave me a wider perspective of things,” Stanek said. “You can do all of this technology stuff and build your skills that way, but performing helps build confidence in talking to groups of people.”
In addition to teamwork, Knacktive emphasizes communication. This spring Stanek served as the IDM director for one of the four Knacktive teams, Confido. Knacktive team members built a comprehensive marketing campaign for Science City, and Confido’s proposal was declared the winner.
“In Knacktive, you have to work on a team, and if you’re not talking to each other, nothing’s going to get done,” Stanek said. “It’s a huge lesson in communication, which a lot of companies are looking for. They’re not hiring just on what you have for skills, although that’s important, but they want to know: Can you talk to people? Can you pick up the phone and talk to someone? Are you clear in your emails? Are you willing to get up from your desk, walk over to someone and talk to them about something? Are you able to articulate a problem? You have to have strong communication skills.”
Now Stanek will take those skills to a new job. Starting June 4, he will work in information technology as a system engineer at Kansas City-based Cerner Corporation, a large company specializing in electronic medical systems and employing about 250 Bearcats. During interviews with multiple companies, Stanek said Northwest’s reputation as the provider of a quality, comprehensive educational experience was reinforced.
“Everywhere I’ve been, people have said Northwest is doing something right,” Stanek said. “And through everything I’ve done, I can see that’s true.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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