Celine Diaz

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January 10, 2017

"From endowing machines with creative behaviors, to using virtual reality to evoke a strong sense of empathy, I have been blown away by the innovation that goes on in SIAT."

So what do Communication students really think about the School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT)? After a completing a co-op with SIAT, Communication student Celine explains the common misconceptions that SIAT students face—and clears the air. 

Getting Involved with SIAT

1. How did you, a Communication student, get involved with the School of Interactive Arts & Technology?

I got involved with the School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT) through my co-op placement as a Communications & Strategic Engagement Assistant. My objective was to promote the achievements of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to the wider community, and to strengthen SIAT’s online presence through social media, website updates, and online feature articles. I was also involved with promoting the school’s main networking event, the SIAT Mixer.

The final component of my role was to support SIAT's student recruitment initiatives. I helped hire, train, and oversee our excellent team of SIAT Ambassadors, arranging guest lectures at high schools to promote the program to prospective students.

2. How is SIAT different from other faculties and programs? 

Despite being from the same faculty (of Communication, Art, and Technology), I quickly realized that I barely knew anything about SIAT at all!

There’s a common misconception that SIAT students only do graphic design or web development, but in reality, they do so much more.

I began to sense this on my first week of co-op, when SIAT professor Dr. Carman Neustaedter strolled into the SIAT office with a robot trailing behind him (his grad student Skyped in through an iPad, which was un-coincidentally attached to the robot’s face). Just like that, I knew I was in for a great adventure.

Since then, my horizons have expanded with ideas I’d never even considered before. From endowing machines with creative behaviors, to designing artificial intelligence systems that react to people’s breathing patterns, to using virtual reality to reduce symptoms of chronic pain or to evoke a strong sense of empathy, I have been blown away by the innovation that goes on in SIAT.

My friends always joke about the fact that SIAT has become my “unofficial second major” since I keep raving on about the cool stuff they do, but it’s true: I kind of feel like a “proud mom” cheering SIAT on in the sidelines. You can probably guess why promoting SIAT to the larger community comes naturally to me ;)

Through all the interviews I’ve conducted with SIAT students, one central theme keeps reappearing:

Rather than asking “Why?”, SIAT students are more likely to ask, “Why not?” This kind of attitude, I believe, is what makes SIAT students uniquely creative, innovative, and forward-thinking.

Rather than being preoccupied with impossibilities, they devote most of their energy to exploring possibilities … and expanding them.

Meet Celine

3. What program(s) are you in?

My initial plan was to major in Communication and minor in Print & Digital Publishing (which I did), but after being inspired by certain life events, I chose to pursue an additional minor: Counseling & Human Development. This last addition to my education felt like the cherry on top of an already amazing journey. People often remark about how “random” my second minor is, but I’ve been aching to tie in another passion of mine: helping others. (Side note: I am a strong mental health advocate, so this minor made so much sense to me.)

4. What made you choose to major in Communication? 

Coming out of high school, all I knew was that I was extraordinarily good at writing. I majored in Communication rather than English because I didn’t want to be stuck analyzing old literature (no offense to English or Literature majors out there!). I wanted to apply my communication skills to real world issues, achieve goals, and advance causes I cared deeply about.

I also wanted to explore different forms of communicating (i.e. websites, videos, graphic design, etc.), which this program enabled me to do. It also provided an in-depth study of contemporary culture, which was fascinating to me.

As communicators, we have the power to influence the way others come to understand the world, so recognizing the consequences of our work is crucial. As Peter Parker’s grandpa famously says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”   

5. What is your dream career?

My dream career would be one that allows me to make a positive impact in the lives of others, directly or indirectly. Whether that means ending the stigma surrounding mental health challenges, supporting the  professional development of students, or using the power of communication to spread messages that matter, work must be truly meaningful.

I have always been a mission-oriented person (propelled by “why” rather than “what”), so working with an organization that is aligned with my personal values and mission would be a huge plus.

The neat thing about majoring in Communication is that it can be applied to virtually any field (I have worked in areas as diverse mental health, technology, and student engagement through various co-op placements), so who honestly knows where I’ll end up in the future? It’s exciting.

6. Did you always want to be part of this faculty?

Funny enough, I always thought I’d be in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, so winding up in the Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology (FCAT) instead was a lovely surprise that I have zero regrets about. FCAT is not only creative and innovative, but also extremely relevant in today’s media-centered world. I feel privileged to be here.

Tips & Tricks for Post-Secondary

7. Do you think SFU has prepared you for the real world?

Yes—especially through the co-operative education program! Nothing prepares you for the real world like getting work experience in your field of study. For those of you who haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to try out the co-op program—it was worth every ounce of my time and energy.

I am happy to say that I will be graduating from university with almost two years of professional work experience under my belt!

8. What is the biggest challenge you faced during your undergraduate degree? 

My biggest challenge in university was avoiding isolation. SIAT is rather unique because it’s a tight-knit program where you get to know your classmates really well. In other programs, however, class sizes are much larger and your classmates are often shifting and changing. Because of this structure, it’s harder to build friendships that last longer than a semester (unless you live on campus, that is)!

My advice would be to keep in touch with classmates and get involved in extracurricular activities on campus. Surrounding yourself with like-minded peers who are invested in the same passions as you are is the best way to avoid this sense of isolation.

Fun Facts

9. What kind of impact do you believe you have on people?

I tend to see all life experiences (both good and bad) as opportunities to grow profoundly in wisdom and insight. Since I started blogging about these insights on my personal website several years ago, people have remarked on how inspired they’ve been by my raw and honest recollections.

To know that I’ve helped others find meaning in their challenges has touched me deeply. I am affirmed by the knowledge that I am not alone in whatever I go through, and that others need to hear what I have to say. I also have a secret talent in public speaking (which is quite strange, since I am a very “silent” person), so this has been another vehicle for me to impact others. I feel grateful!  

10. Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I used to compete internationally in hip-hop dance competitions (my team won a bronze medal for Canada back in 2011). I was also born on a tiny island called Saipan, which most people have never heard of. 

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