Filling the Void in the Arts

Biz Hoffman at the Entertainment and Arts Society (EAS) Grammys Screening Party.
Biz Hoffman at the Entertainment and Arts Society (EAS) Grammys Screening Party.

Elizabeth “Biz” Hoffman, a Drexel University senior majoring in entertainment and arts management (EAM), will graduate early, but not before she unveils a new event for Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design students. Hoffman’s senior project, entitled “Entertain Your Future,” is an entertainment and arts career fair that will be held in the URBN Center Lobby on Feb. 27 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

During her undergraduate years, Hoffman noticed a lack of art representation on Drexel’s campus. While there are multiple career fairs throughout the academic year for engineering and for general business students, arts students were often left to fend for themselves. When Hoffman began brainstorming her senior project last summer, her thoughts drifted toward the cumbersome process of finding co-ops in a highly specialized major with an unusual co-op cycle.

While most Drexel undergraduates have one or three six-month co-ops that fall into the fall/winter or spring/summer categories, the EAM program requires students to complete two co-ops in four years. These co-ops occur in the summers immediately following a student’s sophomore and junior years. Because EAM majors have co-ops for shorter periods of time, they experience a quick turn-over. 

Complicating the process is the entertainment industry’s notoriety for lack of communication. “This industry’s co-op process is very open-ended, and it’s very easy not to get an answer from someone,” said Hoffman. Students in EAM and in a similar program, Music Industry and Production (MIP), must therefore resort to independent searches while other majors have more options through Steinbright Career Development Center’s resources. Steinbright’s EAM connections are not as developed as those for majors like business and engineering, which have been offered since the university’s 1891 founding. A relatively new and small major, EAM is currently in its 10th year and has about 145 undergraduates, while there are 1,053 undergraduate mechanical engineering students in the College of Engineering alone.

“Drexel does a very good job overall in setting up opportunities for students to meet with employers, but in creative fields the way employment works is unique. There aren’t a lot of people coming to campus to do interviews, [and] there is not a formal hiring process that you have in some companies that hire business school graduates, or engineers, or nurses,” Larry Epstein, Hoffman’s senior project advisor and EAM faculty member, said.

Biz Hoffman (left) and fellow EAS member Laurel Yaros sharing information about Night of the Arts (2016). Courtesy of the EAS Facebook page.

One of Hoffman’s project goals is to ease the search process for future EAM students. Because EAM has several available concentrations, Hoffman aims to present “a broad-brush stroke of the industry,” so music, television and cinema, visual art, and media-based companies will be present. With one month until showtime, Hoffman has secured representatives from 16 companies, including the Wilma Theatre, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Live Nation. At least half of these companies have a Drexel alumnus connection.

In her search for company representatives, Hoffman relied on her own connections as well as those of EAM department heads, Steinbright advisors, and Westphal alumni. Steinbright, Drexel’s Alumni Association, the EAM program, and the student organization Entertainment and Arts Society (EAS) — of which Hoffman is the president — are partners in hosting the event. Hoffman will donate the career fair’s proceeds to EAS for its third annual Night of the Arts in June, an event celebrating Drexel’s artistic community.

Hoffman is not focused exclusively on Westphal undergraduates, though. A soon-to-be alumna herself who has been recently involved in her own career search, Hoffman wishes to bridge the gap between undergraduates and alumni.

“I just know that in a couple months when I’m an alum, I would be more than happy to come back and do an event like this. Another goal for my event aside from filling a void is to help the alumni reconnect with the university, either as a company representative or attending as a guest,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman hopes the project proves to be beneficial for students, alumni, and the represented companies. “Biz’s project is a really important one for students who want to work in creative fields,” Epstein remarked. “The project has gotten widespread support, not only from the EAM program but also from the career center and from Alumni Relations because it really connects the alumni and Westphal community together in a way that targets that sector of the community that’s interested in entertainment and the arts.”

Hoffman wants the career fair to be an annual event. Although she will graduate at the end of March, faculty heads, Steinbright mentors, and Westphal Dean Allen Sabinson are excited at the prospect of a recurring arts career fair and are looking to maintain the connections Hoffman has established.

“If students and alumni can mingle together and talk about...their experiences as undergraduates and what they’re doing now, I think we could learn so much from each other. If we just build a better community together we would be able to benefit from each other’s experiences and contacts,” Hoffman explained. “Maybe one day Drexel can also take over the entertainment industry.”

By Margaux Cattelona, a freshman entertainment and arts management major in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, as part of the winter 2018 "Writing for Drexel Publication" Pennoni Honors College course.