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Perry Goldman ’16

Name: Perry Goldman
Hometown: South Brunswick(original), Haddon Heights(current)
Major(s)/Minors(s): Communication Studies (Interpersonal)
Graduation Year: 2016

How did you first become interested in pursuing both IMM and Communication Studies?

When I left TCNJ in 1997 to join the Army, I was a Communication Studies major. The college was a different place back then; Loser Hall was a new building, there was no IMM/Art building, and the library was still in Roscoe West hall. The world was a different place, too; there was no Google or Wikipedia. We had computer labs, but the internet was vast, unexplored territory; Yahoo was still new, and was the world’s only search engine, but that didn’t show up until 1995. If you wanted to see what was out there, you’d go to a computer lab and walk around peeking over peoples’ shoulders and try to remember the URL for what they were looking at.

Even though my Communication Studies background helped me become the best at what I did in the Army, I always wished I had more knowledge about computer programming, because there is a severe shortage of computer programmers and I want to open a school where I can train up new programmers in a kind of accelerated “boot camp”. IMM will help me get there faster, and there are other uses for what we’re learning, such as mobile application development, cinema and film animation, computer graphics for videos, and so much more. If what we know as “Computer Science” is the traditional programming route, then “Computer Arts” would be the IMM side. I really feel at home in this major where it’s all about outcome-based learning and creative problem solving.

How have your past experiences (military, internships, careers, etc) influenced your interests in IMM and Communication Studies?

I was a teacher for the US Army for 6 years, at the Intelligence Center and School at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. I moved back to NJ, and TCNJ, because I wanted to be closer to my daughter for the last few years before she went off to college, but I needed to find a new skillset in order to find work on the east coast. I originally wanted to learn computer programming in order to focus on cybersecurity, for which the pentagon has budgeted billions of dollars over the next decade. I was a government employee at the time, and chasing the mirage of “job security”. Dr. Derrick Samuels, a mentor of mine from another school, informed our class that even if there is such a concept of job security in reality, that is made up of much lower-order needs on Maslow’s hierarchy; if you spend your entire life chasing a paycheck, you’re only thinking on the survival level. We should aim instead to create a vision of something we’d like to do, preferably something that helps the world, and find a way to get paid to actualize that vision.

I chose to take on two or three problems: The lack of entry-level computer programmers in America, the fact that a lot of college-aged kids can’t afford the costs of higher education, and the fact that so many veterans returning from service are dropping out of college because they lack the structure and support systems they’re accustomed to functioning in.

My daughter taught me a lot about the world she’s growing up in, and how it was different from those of us who were born pre-internet. I also learned a great deal about life outside the military in the past few years from her and other younger friends of mine; racism just doesn’t exist in the Army on anything other than an individual scale, because military culture gives everyone the same opportunities based on merit. The US Military has always been that way, allowing opportunities for everyone regardless of race, color, gender, or national origin. It is difficult for someone who spent their whole adult life in and around the military to understand what life is like for people from unprivileged groups in the civilian world, because there is just no applicable metaphor in the military.

I feel that it’s the responsibility of anyone who disagrees with the oppression of any person because of race, class, gender, sexuality, or disability to help create a system where both opportunity and a level playing field make society equal for everyone.

I had several jobs in the military that dealt with critical thinking and cultural awareness, as well as target audience analysis and persuasion skills, but I’ll sum up by saying that Human Intelligence Collection and Psychological Operations is just a practical form of the sort of thing we learn and do in Communication Studies department.

We understand you have some exciting news. Can you share a little bit about the origins of your project, what you did, and how Google has been involved? 

I do! Google is producing a short film that I wrote. Back in April, the 2014-2015 Campus MovieFest tour came to TCNJ. I fell into a group because friends of mine were looking for an actor. My team’s film didn’t make it to the top, but next year will be a different story. I saw another contest within Campus MovieFest called “Google Infinite Deviation”, which was calling for short film ideas that would:

  • Showcase how computer science impacts the world around us in our everyday lives.
  • Make computer science more appealing and friendly to traditionally underrepresented groups in the tech industry, with a primary focus on women, LGBT, and people of color.

This was right up my alley, because it fell in with my eventual goals for starting a school, and the same target audience I want to recruit when I do get my system of schools up and running. So I came up with an action-adventure about 4 students who were diverse looked and acted nothing like the Steve Jobs/Marc Zuckerberg/Bill Gates stereotype of computer scientist. I slipped an Army veteran in there as well. Their hobbies and interests, which are driving fast cars, food blogging, playing mobile video games, and knitting, are all metaphors for how computer science surrounds us, and are also metaphors for how computer code is composed.

Not too long afterwards, I was told that my concept was chosen as a top ten finalist and I needed to rewrite it in to a standardized format: Three paragraphs, 100 words each, and include one photo per paragraph. This was the actual “deck” that would be given to Google so they could select winners. It was then that I started my GoFundMe campaign to raise travel money, and I hit my goal within a day thanks to a friend buying me a plane ticket with her frequent flyer miles, and the IMM department offering to reimburse up to a certain amount of my travel also helped with lodging and meals for six days in L.A.

Our school proved to be quite a big deal; nationwide, among 75,000 participants, Brooke Schmidt and Ian Cooley were in the top 5 for Best Director for their film “(Tri)al”, and Josh Lewkowicz’s group was nominated for the top 5 in Best Picture, Best Drama, Best Actor(Garrett Verdone), best production design, and actually won the award for Best Special Effects. My concept was chosen as one of the three winners.

While I was only brought on as a creative consultant to the film, because it’s hard to commute to the set in L.A., I did get to meet some incredible people including Julie Anne Crommett, who is the Program Manager for Computer Science Education in Media at Google, the great mind behind programs like “Girls who code”, and the former head of the Diversity program at NBC Universal.

How did you come up with the concept behind Heroes’ Code Jam?

I’ll start with the title:
Q: What is a Heroes’ Code?
A: I don’t know, but probably something you’d hear about like never giving up and never leaving your comrades behind and that kind of thing.

Q: What is a Code Jam?
A: That one I can answer: The Google Code Jam is an annual programming competition held by Google dating back to 2003. The name has been used by plenty of spin-offs and imitation competitions; even TCNJ has a similar competition called the “TCNJ Hack-a-thon”.

As for the idea: I was frustrated about our film not winning, and it reminded me of the frustration I’d felt when studying computer science. I decided to channel that frustration into a story that would reach other people who had felt that way about computers. A lot of the stories I write are “fish out of water” tales, so I threw in the idea that these four students would suddenly get sucked into another universe where they’d be welcomed as “heroes”, and have to use their legendary magic abilities to save what was left of humanity in that world. With a little help from some magical artifacts that can be controlled by “mystical script”, the heroes will do battle with a powerful demon lord that thrives on ignorance and fear, and is hopping from world to world, hunting humans. The magical script, happens to be similar to Java or another code we use in our own world; write it in the air, and you can control attributes of things.

Although they have no confidence in their scripting skills, they’re going to have to learn… and it doesn’t go well until they realize that their hobbies have taught them all they need to know about coding, and they can apply by taking a much more organic and intuitive approach to programming. The Google doc of the treatment can be found here.

With that being said, after a few Google Hangouts with the production team, the story has been changed in order to fit the 5-7 minute format. It’s now about a single protagonist, and much of the action has been taken out. The film title has been changed to “The Shadow”, and will air with the 2015-2016 Campus MovieFest tour.

Who has been your greatest influence or supporter throughout your journey at TCNJ?

In this screenwriting venture, I have to thank Brooke Malihot (Adjunct Professor, Intro to TV Production). She had some very kind words about a television treatment I wrote last January. The assignment was to come up with an idea for a television series, but I wrote the first 9 episodes instead. She read all ten pages, and I wouldn’t have had the confidence to try something like Google Infinite Deviation without her encouragement. As far as moral support, I got more than I needed from John Kuiphoff (Department Chair, IMM), Dr. Susan Ryan (The Language of Film), Dr. Keli Steuber (Communcation Studies – Interpersonal), and the great Dr. John Pollock (who taught me several Communication Studies classes back in the 90s, as well as this past semester)

What are your plans for the future?

In the near future, you can look forward to the release of a webseries we’re doing called “The Space Between”. The scripts are written, the pre-production is done, and we’ll be filming and airing once we get back to school this fall. It’s going to be an interdimensional young adult love story with a diverse and representative cast, and what we call “next-generation storytelling”. Two women I’ve worked with before are directing the series, it stars all TCNJ people, and it will be the first of many productions we’ll put out during this school year in our mission to fix what’s broken in Hollywood.

Also in the near future, I’ll be hopping around several Freshman seminars in both of my departments to pass on some of the 30 pages worth of notes I took at CMF and the other 20 I’ve taken during Google Hangouts with YouTube creator mentors over the past month.

I’ll also be turning the original “Heroes’ Code Jam” concept into an animated series on our YouTube channel, once I finish the side-courses I’m taking on Blender and Unity3d and Adobe After Effects. If anyone is interested in getting into the YouTube game, don’t hesitate to contact me because I have tons of information from the classes I’m taking with their analysts on building and retaining an audience.

Do you have any advice for incoming or current students in the School of the Arts and Communication?

  • Don’t try to create what you think others will like; every time you try to hit a certain genre just because you think it’s popular, it is already popular, and you’ll be competing with 10,000 others who came before you and have a bigger budget and more resources and experience. Instead, create the product YOU would like, and distribute that.
  • Get to class a few minutes early and start talking to someone about something you overheard, or their shoes, or a sticker on their laptop, or whatever. You can always fall back on the “What’s your name? What’s your major?” thing we all did in Welcome Week. They’re all just as afraid as you are of human interaction, or worse, so make it easy for them by talking about things they like at first. Waiting outside of your advisor’s office and there’s someone else in the hall? Talk to them. Afraid that you’re a transfer student and you’re missing out on the college experience? So is every other transfer student and/or commuter, so talk to them. It gets harder and harder to meet people as a semester progresses and the homework piles up, so do it early. Those people are going to come in handy when you have a group project or something out of class that you want to do. Finally, please don’t hide in your room for four years; you can do that after you graduate.
  • Speaking of creating things: Your class projects are just the tip of the iceberg, and will only get you a leg up on 10% of the other college graduates out there. To be better than the other 90%, you need to do projects outside of class and promote your work online. Are you a writer? Do NaNoWriMo. Are you a Radio/Television/Film production major? Do Campus MovieFest or any of the dozens of film festivals around the world. Are you a music major? Even amateur musicians with no formal training can have huge followings by posting their song covers etc. online. Are you just someone who doesn’t know what they want to do? Find out what’s wrong with the world, and figure out a way to get paid to fix what’s broken. I’m talking to you. If you were waiting the letter from Hogwarts or Gandalf or a wardrobe or for some mysterious old guy to appear and give you a quest to save the world, I’m him. Do it.

What are your hobbies?

I have read over 1000 different manga and webcomics in my adult life. I used to be really involved with the kind of video games that have you partnering up with your friends and guild members to go slay dragons, but I just don’t have time anymore. I still keep up-to-date and support crowdfunding efforts for good new games, though.

If you could have any super power, what would it be? 

This is a great question that illustrates what we learned in one of Dr. Steuber’s classes: Development is a continuous process that happens across all stages of life.
My first time in college, I’d have said something about flying or turning invisible or telekinesis something fun. Nowadays, I would want the ability to grant any superpower to others, because they’d feel better about going out to fix a broken world if they had superhuman abilities. I think it’s some kind of metaphor for what teachers do; they empower students with knowledge, so those students can make informed and responsible decisions in life.

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