Student Talent Agency Bridges Professional Gap

Photo: Bobby Jones

YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS FACE THE GIG ECONOMY

Students in the College of Arts and Media (CAM) have faced the prospect of graduating without traditional full-time employment since they first considered majoring in the arts. However, CU Denver’s new Student Talent Agency’s ambition is to encourage arts students to embrace the cutting-edge world of the gig economy.

Many students are overwhelmed when entering this elusive job field. Seeking out jobs as graphic designers, guitar players, or film producers can be inherently complicated, in addition to the process of conciliating terms of payment and scope of the work. Students encounter the complexities of marketing and promoting their skills in a local economy that believes college students shouldn’t be paid for their services.

“The reality is most companies expect students to work for free,” Angie Buckley, lecturer and Scholar in Residence for Entrepreneurism and Enterprise for CAM, said. “I am here to change that by taking time to talk to the companies about the benefits of paying a talented student.”

The program, currently called Student Talent Agency (STA), aims to connect the community, mentor students, and encourage students to build their professional portfolios while in school. The STA is currently open to all CAM students, regardless of major or previous work experience.

STA also strives to bring the CAM community together. “I think CAM has a tendency to compartmentalize itself, and the Student Talent Agency presents a lot of untapped potential for inter-CAM collaboration,” Jonathan Eldridge, a fourth-year 3D animation major, said. “I’ve already met some incredibly ambitious artists that had existed outside my circle for years.”

The planned use of profits have had mixed reviews from students. When the idea was pitched to multiple CAM classes, students rebuked with questions about how much money the students retain, whether their tangible assets and supplies are being used, and what percentage of the gross the agency will take. In the early stages of this program, these questions remained unanswered.

“From a moral standpoint, should the University be taking the percentage of the gross revenue?” a CAM student who wished to remain anonymous said. “Further, nothing seems to have been publicized on how the agency will decide where it goes. Is this an executive decision made by Buckley? Will students have a say in where this money is being spent?”

“There are restrictions, but the team gets full decision authority within those guidelines,” Buckley said. “Due to the university student employment cap, we will not be able to pay students above a certain amount. The rest of the money is planned to go right back into the team.”

The professional standards of the program are also in question. Students have felt that the approach to the program opens the potential for bias and coercion. The same anonymous student stated, “There is no sample contract yet. I can’t imagine signing up for an agency without knowing what the terms and conditions are. There’s no website with any of this information listed, and I’d rather have the information online in a neutral location rather than ‘calling or texting Angela’ as Buckley has suggested in classes.”

Despite some early criticism, STA is a fresh-faced initiative on CU Denver’s campus. Steeped with students passionately building a strong foundation for their professional lives, the program seems to be off to a strong start. It seems that the university is moving forward boldly to create opportunities that in Buckley’s eyes will truly prove that “the city is our campus.”

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