Billie Haas '18, a graduate of CAL's visual arts and technology program, came to Stevens with a pretty good idea of what she wanted to do in the future.
As a high school student, she attended a communications magnet school, where students pursued passions in journalism, digital media and the visual arts. “I wasn’t looking to become the best painter or the best graphic designer. What I wanted was to develop a really great portfolio and a wide variety of skills."
That's what led the New Jersey native to Stevens. The school’s visual arts and technology program offered the perfect blend of a traditional education and a technology-driven curriculum, one tailored to today’s hyper-digital environment.
“I had a lot of foundational art courses like drawing and design," Haas said. "Then I moved on to more computer-based courses that integrate both fine arts and the digital arts, including augmented reality and virtual reality. When you mix all these together, that’s when you start experimenting and pushing the boundaries of art.”
Encouraged to experiment, Stevens students often combine arts of different forms. It's common for students to supplement their major with a minor in one of CAL's other highly-regarded programs, and for Haas, the best choice was to do so in both music & technology and theater & technology.
“The way these two programs are run at Stevens, you have a lot of opportunities to cross over and try different things. You can bring what you’ve learned from one discipline and bring it into the other, and figure out how they work and don’t work together.”
Exposure to all three programs helped Haas narrow her career interest to the live entertainment industry.
“[Studying music, visual arts and theater] gives you a perspective of the entertainment industry that isn’t just limited to graphic design or just limited to sound recording," said Haas. "Having skill sets in all three disciplines opens up so many professional opportunities."
Haas has applied her cross-disciplinary skills in both the classroom and workspace. As a member of the DeBaun Performing Arts Center technical staff, she assisted with lighting, staging, audio, and general theater maintenance. In the summer of 2016, she worked at WorldStage, a creative firm that executes audio, video and lighting for premiere companies, artists and theatrical communities. This internship put Haas in the middle of the action, where she enjoyed bouncing between departments.
“I got to physically work with the equipment that gets shipped out to certain shows. I also worked in the drafting department, helping to map out the systems that had to be sent to the convergence department to be built, something I really enjoyed because it was so closely-related to my visual arts and 3D design classes.”
While still a student, Haas began working part-time as a production assistant at Live Nation Entertainment, the world's leading live entertainment company. The concerts she's worked on were headlined by some of today's top artists: Jay-Z, Bruno Mars, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Phish and U2.
Beyond the academic and industry experiences, Haas says the close-knit community of art and music students at Stevens has played an important role in her growth as an artist.
“We could all be working in the studio together at 3 a.m. and have a wonderful environment to work and mess up in. It’s really nice to have this community to draw inspiration from, share ideas with and encourage one another in, which I feel is a difficult thing to find.”
She says this closeness and generosity speaks to Stevens’ overall approach to developing and encouraging young artists.
“One of the nice things about Stevens’ visual arts program is that it’s not competitive against the students. It’s more about making you a better artist and a more critical thinker."
Since graduation, Haas has started pursuing a master's in management at Stevens. She also continued her work with Live Nation and took a job as an Assistant Engineer at WorldStage.
"I hope to immerse myself in all parts of this fast-paced industry, while finding ways in which I can apply the skillset I have cultivated at Stevens into live entertainment’s creative visual outlets."