Brandon Vargas knows what it’s like to be told something is off limits. “Definitely in my life,” says the Montclair State junior, “there has been someone who says, ‘Oh, you can’t do that. Or you’re not that good.’ That always motivates me to do it and to do it better than I did before.”
Vargas, a Family Science and Human Development major, focuses on social justice and diversity in urban education. He spent the fall as a student teacher of third graders, adapting lessons moved online because of the pandemic as part of the Newark Teacher Project.
He is one of nine students and alumni chosen to represent the University in a new marketing video that shows the world Montclair State’s values: empowering, welcoming and committed to excellence.
Watch the Video
During the course of the filming, Madeline Kollegger, a graduate student in Earth and Environmental Science, found herself knee deep in water waiting for noisy jets and leaf blowers to pause to address those who say:
“There are more important things to worry about.”
Kollegger studies how coastlines change over time, measuring the sediment deposited before a river flows into the ocean. She believes that changes to the environment pose an immense and impending risk to all communities. “By understanding, preserving and restoring our natural spaces we will also protect those human populations who are most at risk,” she says.
The video shows Rebecca Monsanto framed by the purple glow of LED lights using a microscope in a science lab. As a sophomore Molecular Biology major, she is working to become a pediatric plastic surgeon despite those who tell her:
“Don’t get any big ideas.”
“I plan to travel the world to where my help is needed,” Monsanto says, “trying to find rare cases, special cases where I can help the most children.”
Monsanto, like other students and alumni who talked about their dreams and experiences in making the video, says she identifies with the can-do spirit of the video’s final line: “We were too busy to listen.”
“You won’t make the grade.”
“When people tell me it’s not possible,” says Vargas, the future teacher, “I see it as motivation.”
Social-distancing measures and other safety precautions were followed during the filming by University Communications and Marketing and its creative agency partner, EFK Group in Trenton. The students and alumni were each filmed individually, and for most, it was their debut in front of a camera.
“My motto is always do what you’re afraid of,” Monsanto says.
“On the acting experience, I’ll just say it highlighted that I should stay in my current profession,” jokes Keisha Hutchinson ’02, a partner with KPMG. “But it was great to get out and do something different.”
“Don’t be so bossy.”
Hutchinson credits her career success to Montclair State University. She earned a BS in Accounting and Finance and says it was through the on-campus recruitment that she was able to have an interview and a job offer before graduation. “Montclair State provided the foundational skills necessary and also emphasized the importance of building my personal brand in order to succeed in business,” she says.
“You will never make it to the top.”
It took a number of takes before Jasmine Metellus, a senior Business Administration major with a concentration in Marketing, could deliver her line in time with the closing of elevator doors. “The crew was patient and kind,” she says. “It was like, wow, I’m the superstar for once.”
Metellus adds, “If it wasn’t for Montclair, I would not be the student leader, the leader in general, that I am. I graduate in May and I feel like Montclair State has really prepared me for the future.”
“Don’t tell stories.”
As a Television and Digital Media major, the filming felt natural for junior Dana Fields. “I wasn’t nervous to be in front of the camera mainly because I’ve been taking so many production classes to the point where I am comfortable behind and in front of the camera.”
She’s overcome a series of obstacles to get to that point, and the script especially resonated. “My dad is a perfect example of being told, ‘No, you’re not good enough.’ His dream was to be on TV, like me, but he didn’t have the support in his corner like I have. He gave up on his dream, but when I told him I wanted to go into the TV production and entertainment industry it brought tears to his eyes. He told me, ‘I can give you the support that I never got when I was your age.’ I’m blessed.”
The new institutional brand identity – called “Elevate” – is being launched after a comprehensive discovery process, says Joseph Brennan, vice president for University Communications and Marketing.
“We asked hundreds of our students, alumni, faculty and administrators what makes Montclair State such a special place. They talked about the University’s commitment to student success, its pursuit of academic excellence, and its welcoming and inclusive spirit. We hope that our new branding conveys the authentic nature of this amazing institution,” Brennan says. “Our agency partner, The EFK Group, tested four different concepts for the video, and our students picked this one by a wide margin. I think it really speaks to how tenacious and hard working they are.”
“Get with the program.”
Carlos Martinez, a graduate student in the new MS in Computational Linguistics program, is interested in developing computational tools for little-known languages. His goal is to create voice applications for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for Garifuna, a minority language spoken by fewer than 200,000 people, mostly in Honduras, Guatemala and Belize, and the native language of his parents. “I imagine a future where I can say, ‘Hey Alexa, please speak to me in Garifuna. Tell my child a story in the language of my people.’”
“Don’t play games with me.”
“I’m trying to prove to myself that I can play to the highest level,” says Chisom Onyewuenyi, a sophomore majoring in Exercise Science. “This is just the start.”
In the video, Onyewuenyi dribbles a soccer ball up and down the field, demonstrating her skill as a right forward for Red Hawks soccer. “I felt like I was doing fitness tests all over again. I loved every second of it.”
“Don’t draw on the walls.”
Ben Kusik ’20 took a circuitous route from training for the Navy SEALs to community college to finally finding a home as a Visual Arts major at Montclair State. “I knew art was risky as a major choice – because everyone told me – but I just felt at home in art studio classes,” he says. His confidence grew during an internship with the University’s Summer and Winter Sessions, where he created digital art of places on campus for social media.
“My path was a combination of help from people along the way, support from family and friends, and pursuing things most people don’t go after,” Kusik says. “But it has been one of learning in all sorts of ways and growing to trust and believe in myself.”
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren
Watch the Behind the Scenes Video
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