SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s perfectly fitting that Maurissa Walls, a senior at The George Washington University, is also the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Smart Girls Group (SGG). She’s definitely one of the smartest people we’ve met and undoubtedly has an extremely bright future ahead of her. We found out about this inspiring woman by word of mouth – her name kept popping up in conversation around campus and it was no secret that she was a leader at GWU, making her mark one student at a time through freshman orientations and volunteerism.

As both a student and aspiring market strategist, Maurissa has never shied away from a challenge. For over two years she has strategized all of the marketing and advertising campaigns for SGG, manages a full team of Smart Girls, and even contributes to the digital magazine – The Smart Girl’s Guide. We are elated to introduce to you Maurissa Walls!

Name: Maurissa Walls
Age: 22
Education: George Washington University, Bachelor of Business Administration concentration in Marketing
Follow Personal: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Maurissa Walls: Finding the balance between preparing yourself for adulthood and all of the responsibilities and pressures that come with it and being completely spontaneous enough to try as many things out of your comfort zone as you can. I think seizing your youth in this way allows you to make a life out of prioritizing having new, fun, adventurous experiences without compromising being a responsible adult because you’ve already made a habit out of finding the balance between the two.

CJ: What made you decide to attend college in Washington, DC, and how has the experience influenced you as an individual?

MW: I honestly ended up in DC because I was too scared at the time of moving to and living New York. I thought it would be a bit too overwhelming and hard for me to adjust. There’s nothing wrong with pacing yourself, if you know what would be best for you, and I truly believe DC is what was best for me at the time. I really wanted to be in an exciting city , and going to college in DC has impacted who I am today tremendously. Going to GW and living in DC has taught me not only to have an appreciation for culture and people but to also celebrate them. Being here has been an incredibly freeing experience. As I’ve developed and changed here I’ve allowed myself to celebrate my own complexities. I’ve learned from other people here that they can be a professional, and artists, and a mentor, and an activist, and so many things at once. I’ve learned not to limit other people or myself to just one box.

CJ: You are currently the Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Smart Girls Group. What does your role entail?

MW: My role at Smart Girls Group includes overseeing the strategic marketing and public relations vision of the company. I work with a really talented group of social media managers, PR managers, graphic designers, and writers to help drive our branding online and promote all of Smart Girls’ amazing offerings, services, and products.

CJ: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with SGG so far?

MW: Working with my team and our wonderful staff has been my favorite part of Smart Girls Group. I love seeing people grow in their positions. Going back to see work of girls on my team from a year or two years ago looks completely different from what they are able to do now. It’s so rewarding to watch people on my team develop their skills, talents, and professionalism and gain confidence in their own capabilities.

Maurissa 3 crop HZCJ: What has been the most unexpectedly exciting part of being involved with a young and growing company?

MW: I didn’t think it would be possible to grow such strong bonds with people online through emails and video conferencing. Those of us on staff are at several different colleges around the US and had never meet in the same room before. When we met for the first time all together at our first conference last summer, it was hard for us to convince people we were physically meeting for the first time. We get along and work so well together. We’ve created such strong bonds and I didn’t expect that to happen. Seeing this come to life at our conference for so many other girls that work together was so rewarding. It definitely proved to me that big results and big impact can come out of small packages.

CJ: How do you deal with difficult days and move forward?

MW: Remembering that I’ll still be alive in the end. There’s nothing more humbling and no easier way to calm yourself down than using a birds-eye view on a tough situation situation. My tough situations don’t even seem valid, considering what is going on in the world. Nowadays I’m usually laughing at my problems. There are some tough times that are harder to laugh through and I will just let myself feel what I am feeling for a moment. Crying, yelling, or whatever I need to do to get it out. But ultimately I realize I can either let myself just exist being upset or I can take action by doing the best that I can. The next day is probably coming, difficult or not, whether I like it or not, so I can at least try to make the best adjustments that I can to make it better.

CJ: What two main pieces of advice would you give to an incoming freshman college student?

MW: I told all of my new students the same advice all summer: use your resources and just take as much stuff as you can. You don’t realize how many “free” things that you are paying for in college until you start budgeting for life after. Then you realize how much free stuff and helpful resources that you left behind. There are so many departments at offices and schools that are begging for students to use their services and as a freshman I thought that I needed to work my way up in order to take advantage. Obviously that’s not true, you can jump in and start taking advantage. That’s not limit to school resources. I encourage freshman to apply for that internships they don’t think they can have or visit that place that they don’t think they can go to. The world is very forgiving of college students – especially freshman.

CJ: You are an aspiring marketing strategist. What originally drew you to this career choice and why?

MW: I’ve wanted to be in marketing since the 6th grade. I liked a writing project that we did where we had to design an ad and create the copy for a cereal commercial. I learned through that project that I like to influence people and I’ve kept with it because I realize there are multiple ways to do it. I’ll be going into buying in the retail industry, and that still feels like marketing to me, because I am in a position to influence and shape people’s experiences when they walk into a store. I like that marketing challenges you find new ways to influence because people are changing all the time.

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

MW: My dad always told me growing up to stay connected with people. It’s becoming harder to do as you get older and busier, but I think it is extremely important. When people that I meet abroad, at school, or in programs have a real impact on me I try to stay connected to them. I think it helps to keep you aware of what you learned and how you’ve grown by be surrounded by the people that have helped to get you to that place.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MW: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Maurissa Group HZCJ: How do you stay organized and juggle all of your responsibilities? Are there specific tools you use?

MW: I’m not a master yet, but I have system that seems to works for me. I use a combination of iCal, a plan book, and a clipboard of to-do lists. I’ve found that it helps me to have multiple touch points. If I have something on my iCal for the day with a notification before, see it in my planner, and have it on my to do list it usually will get done.

Color-coding is also really important and I make sure that I use the same color codes across my three planners. I like being able to look at my schedule at the beginning of the week and visually see that there are a lot of orange student org activities and know that it will be a fun week or to see a lot of blue academic slots to know that I have to crack down early in the week.

CJ: You will be graduating from the George Washington University in 2015. What are your next steps?

MW: I’ll be working in the Merchant (buying/planning) executive program at Macy’s HQ in New York. I am really excited about my job, I think it is well suited for my skills and it will challenge me in new ways. I think it will be a more creative and challenging way for me to use marketing to influence people.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

MW: I would tell myself that I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I’ve mostly had the same personality, spirit, and energy my entire life and I’ve always known that. I would tell myself to keep listening to myself. I’d promise myself that I would be really grateful for being exactly who I am later down the road and that it is for a good purpose.

Maurissa Walls Qs

Photos courtesy of Hannah Ziegler, Emily Raleigh, and Veronica Graves

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Erik Fabian has always enjoyed performing. As an artist working in performance, installation, and conceptual art, Erik is interested in the interaction between people and how “space and circumstances around that interaction shape your experience.” Erik is a graduate of the Master of FIne Arts program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his experience at grad school greatly changed his work.

While working as an artist, Erik is also the Director of Brand & PR at Moleskine America. Erik tells stories about the Moleskine brand’s values while also inspiring people to create more. We’re definitely inspired – as huge fans of putting pen to paper, we are guilty of carrying our Moleskine notebooks around with us everywhere we go to note down ideas and to-dos.

Though busy, Erik has great tips for managing his time. How does he do it exactly? By identifying two or three big goals for the day, as well as smaller tasks to accomplish. Keep reading to learn more about Erik’s successful career, his creative process, and the simple yet effect things he does when he needs to unwind or reset.

Name: Erik Fabian
Age: 38
Education:
The Evergreen State College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Follow: @ErikFabianInstagram / ErikAndTheAnimals.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Erik Fabian: Take responsibility for your own happiness, impact, growth, and future. The sooner you take responsibility for yourself the more you can enjoy your youth and make choices that will help you enjoy your adulthood. I would define “responsibility” as being able to explain your choices and being willing to stand behind your actions whatever the outcome.

CJ: You are an artist working in performance, installation, and conceptual art. What sparked your interest in art, and why specifically performance art and installation?

EF: I have always enjoyed performing. I think of it as this very big, philosophical playground and lab. It is a kind of play that gets lost as you get older. During a performance rules of interaction can be rewritten and questions about the world can be explored. I also like that performance can be so physical.

I became particularly interested in how people interact and how the space and circumstances around that interaction shape your experience. That led me to create more installations and events. I currently express this interest mostly through my role at Moleskine in creating events and partnerships with artists/cultural organizations.

Erik F

CJ: You are a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). What was that experience like and how did you determine where to study?

EF: At the time I wanted to explore performance in a broad sense…that included both the history of theater and the history of visual arts. That choice narrowed my options. You can do more tradition theater work in several places or be the conceptual/performance person in a more visual arts focused program but a mix is rare. When I met the faculty at SAIC I felt it was a pretty good fit and it was a well-regarded school and I was fortunate to get accepted.

I loved being a grad student and having the time and resources to think alongside very talented people. I enjoyed getting a stronger sense of visual art history and how visual artists work. It also gave me a vocabulary to talk about my work and other people’s work. The experience did change my work a great deal. For one thing, I wanting to experience how to make solo work after working collaboratively for a long time and had time to do that. The funny thing is that most visual artists I met had worked solo for so long and were looking for collaboration.

In the end your network is a key professional asset you take from any graduate school experience. I unfortunately didn’t want to live in Chicago permanently and left much of that network behind after the program. If you can, go to school where you want to live.

CJ: Your work explores notions of value and how we value art and the experience of performance. How do you come up with ideas and topics for your work, and what is your creative process?

EF: If I am working alone, I just follow my interests. My interests are usually are obvious based on the kind of reading and media I am consuming. I read a lot. I consume a lot of media. When working with others, it starts with conversations about interests and using formal idea development sessions. I am the kind of person who has way more ideas than time and resources to execute them.

To develop an idea into something for sharing, I set some kind of restraints around a project based on my interests, current resources and go from there. The process helps refine/reduce all my ideas and to fill in the blanks where needed. My process is a combo of doing structured, practical things and just noodling on ideas. For instance on the practical side, I start with making a calendar and working backwards, setting goals that lead to the result I want. On the looser side, I tend to draw lots of simple representation of ideas for aspects of the work.

Often I find I have clear ideas about the space and sequence of events first. I also tend to summarize the project as a kind of poster at some point. Getting on your feet and doing things rather than talking is a powerful way to move things forward when making a performance. When doing other kinds of projects, rapid-prototyping is the same kind of idea with a similar contribution to the process.

Erik F 3

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who wants to be an artist and creatively branch out on their own?

EF: First on the creative side, don’t ever be shy about pursuing your creative life. Everyone has a creative spark – nurture it, practice daily if you can, find what thrills you, hang out with other creative people, consume art that excites you, and enjoy yourself. With that said, I think your question is asking more how to become an “artist” as in not someone who doesn’t just makes stuff but has an audience and ultimately might be a professional.

I say don’t become an “artist.” There are too many vague “artists” in the world and the opportunities to express yourself isn’t limited to just traditional mediums like painting or poetry. You need to become something much more specific and powerful than an “artist.” “Artists” rarely have a sufficient audience to sustain a professional career. I know a ton of talented people who are doing odd jobs so they can paint or whatever and maybe get a lucky break. I have heard that most MFA graduates stop making work in six or seven years after graduation which I find sad and it should scare you. Find a niche where your interests, talents, refined craft, and the story you tell about yourself makes you very different than everyone else.

Andy Warhol isn’t an artist – he is a clever guy who took the notion of the commodification of visual goods and made his life into a metaphor for the industrial system. In doing so he created a ton of work that was easy to sell and still sells while also hanging out with kooky folks and living a life where he got to express ideas to an audience who cares.

You can write a similar blurb about any successful “artist” as well as people who express via entrepreneurship, social work, politics, or whatever. What is the blurb you want people to write about you? Write it without using the word “artist.”

On your way to living your blurb here are a couple other things I have noticed. Take your creative impulses and refine them into a craft – people with good technical skills in any traditional medium always have it easier. Identify a creative process that helps you consistently produce work – people who create a lot of work have it easier. Learn to talk about your work with non-“artists” – people will constantly ask you what you do and need a concrete response and these folks are your potential audience. Think about your work as a business and learn how the business of your relevant art market works – the people who are good at business and marketing have longer and bigger careers. Get really good, be really interesting, get good advice, handle your personal finances responsibly, and don’t let the pursuit of this professional stuff squash your creative self.

CJ: You are also the Director of Brand & PR at Moleskine America. What drew you to Moleskine and what does your job entail?

EF: I basically tell stories about the values that underlie the Moleskine brand. These values are the bedrock that supports the kinds of objects and experiences Moleskine designs and shares in the world. I also have a mandate to expand and protect the brand both as it is understood both among Moleskine America staff and in the public. If you take the time to look at Moleskine.com for instance you will see that the company has a ton of stuff going on. I help spread the word about these activities to our fans and try to inspire folks to create more.

I was attracted to the values of Moleskine and liked the design of the notebooks. The role they offered fit my experience as someone who has a background in the arts and expertise in creating events.

CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

EF: I have sat in a privileged seat as the head of the brand at Moleskine America. Moleskine is one of the most passionately loved brands in the world and I am constantly impressed by the creative outpouring Moleskine fans put into their notebooks. I have certainly learned a great deal about building a successful brand and how the power of arts/culture contributes to building a brand like Moleskine.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

EF: There are different periods that focus on planning, budgeting, and execution of projects over the year. Most days I start by setting my to-dos and reviewing my calendar. I then jump into emails unless I have a pressing document to write. My days are dotted with meetings both with staff and external folks. Most of the work at an organization of any size is focused on alignment and focusing of everyone’s effort.

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

EF: I identify two or three big goals for the day and maybe two to four small tasks I want to get done. This helps me focus. I try to keep my unread email basically at zero. I keep a digital calendar up to date for meetings and create dedicated project calendars for anything important. I take notes in a Moleskine notebook of course and find being able to write/draw ideas and notes helps me be efficient because it roots the information in my brain more powerfully than typing.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

EF: Finding time to be as physically active is always a challenge. I am always experimenting with how to be efficient at getting some movement into my week.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

EF: Walking when the weather is warm is great. I like to get out of the city and camp when I have time. I like to cook and go to restaurants. I also read a lot and consume a lot of media. I have been a long time meditator and have found a rigorous seated practice hard to maintain in NYC, but I takes aspects of that practice that I apply throughout my day.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

EF: Don’t wait for anyone else to take action. Go forward and people who are interested in your path will show up alongside you.

Erik Fabian Qs

Image: Erik Fabian, Emilie Baltz, Rachel Scroggins