Electra Poulsen '20, Animation and Illustration

A Community Focused on High-impact Learning

When Electra Poulsen was searching for a college to attend, she saw few schools that offered the major she wanted. When she looked into Northern Vermont University-Lyndon, not only did she find a great fit with the animation and illustration program, she later helped plan one of the campus’s biggest fall happenings: the annual Vermont Animation Festival, the only event of its kind in the state.

Opportunities Outside of the Classroom

A transfer student now in her second year at NVU-Lyndon, Electra learned early how NVU’s focus on hands-on experience is valuable for students. She used the skills she’s gained to create an ad for the most recent Animation Festival that ran in the statewide publication Seven Days. And, with fellow animation and illustration student Megan Smith, she prepared Quimby Gallery on campus for an exhibit of student animation connected with the festival. Some of Electra’s work was displayed.

“The teachers and classes all prepare you for what you’re going to be doing after college," says Electra, who commutes to NVU from her home in Monroe, New Hampshire.

In her animation classes, Electra is gaining relevant workplace skills that will help her stand out as she begins her career. “The biggest thing is getting your name out there. All my professors have been telling me this,” she says. “You learn how to price a picture out, how to sell things and brand yourself. That will definitely help.” 

Faculty also emphasize networking and offer to connect students with alumni in animation, illustration and related fields. “They’re always introducing you to somebody, and that’s how you get a job,” Electra says.

Assistant professor Robby Gilbert, a mentor for Electra, encouraged her to explore sand animation, now her passion. “He pushes you to be better and shows you new ways to do things,” Electra says. At the Animation Festival last year, Robby brought in a sand animator to teach a class, which increased Electra’s interest. Excelling at sand animation, not used as widely as other animation techniques, could help her choose a career path. 

Support like Robby’s is common at NVU. “I’ve always had great teachers who are really responsive and definitely there if you need help,” Electra says.

A Learning Environment that Works for Everyone

With NVU’s small class sizes, the supportive spirit extends to students, too. “We push each other to be better people,” she notes.

Electra’s small classes sometimes have grown by one person when she has taken her 5-year-old daughter with her a few times on days her babysitter was sick. “Every teacher has been very accepting,” she says. “I feel it’s very friendly here for kids, and I really appreciate that. It makes me want to stay here.”

That’s an example of the tight-knit community that draws students to NVU-Lyndon.

“NVU is really good about putting on activities and events to get people involved,” Electra says. With the Vermont Animation Festival, workshops, free shows and other happenings, “I feel like the school puts a lot of effort into community.”

As a peer leader, Electra stays active in the NVU community. She participates in Summer Orientation and Registration (SOAR) events for first-year and transfer students, keeps office hours, helps students register for classes, attends their first-year seminar classes and checks in with them at other times.

The friendliness among NVU students, faculty and staff is contagious. “I like that feeling of helping (new students) fit in and get comfortable around other people,” Electra says. “I do it because I want them to succeed.”