Interview with RMSP Career Training Director, Marie Osborne

For over 20 years, RMSP has offered a unique approach to photography education in this highly creative and competitive field with our annual Career Training program. I spent some time with the program’s director Marie Osborne to discuss her background and her vision for this year’s version.

Thanks for your time, Marie. For those not familiar with you or your role here, would you give us a brief background?
Sure. My education focused on sociology/psychology with an emphasis in the creative arts.  My work life has involved arts administration in non-profit arts organizations as well as public and private agencies.

I am in my ninth year at RMSP and this summer will be my seventh season as  the director of the Career Training program.  My role involves the development, planning and the day to day operation of this complex and exciting program.  I pay close attention to building a structure that provides an environment that is most conducive to our students’ learning and growth.  This effort is to guide students through the steps each week toward successful completion of the program.  An important aspect of my role is to provide structure, training, resources and consistent support to the people who make up our dynamic staff.  Together, we provide the space for our students to have a unique experience that is valued by so many year after year.

How has Summer Intensive and the overall Career Training program evolved over the years in order to keep pace with the ever-shifting field of photography?
That is a great question.  The Career Training program was initiated in 2005 as a response to the growing interest in photography as a career. We developed three independent programs into one with the goal of creating a comprehensive photographic education in an intensive, total immersion format.  This structure has allowed for the content of each session to be more fluid with the ability to expand, shift and grow.

New tools are introduced in Summer Intensive each season. Our course offerings for the Professional Studies session reflect the areas of the market that students are most interested in incorporating into their own business model. We have expanded to teach new technologies such as HD video and the business & marketing aspects of preparing for a photographic career.

What are your goals for the program in terms of the experience for the student?
You know, I have seen the evolution of the Career Training program over the years from a “summer camp” type of experience into a place where the serious student can have their educational expectations met while enjoying a nurturing and supportive environment.

My goal is to provide a program where a student can become immersed in quality photographic study and feel that they have space for expansion on a personal level through their creative growth.  The connection that a student creates between her/his environment, fellow classmates, instructors, assistants, support staff and themselves can be an important aspect of the experience.  We encourage our graduates to maintain the network of photographers that they develop during their time here as essential support on their creative and professional journeys.

How do you personally prepare for the arrival of a new group of passionate photographers into the program?
Well, an entire team of people work hard every day tackling the details of what it takes to prepare for the students’ arrival.  RMSP is a place where the individual matters and I strive to never lose sight of this. Prior to the start of each season I work to learn what I can about each student by reading their statement about themselves regarding their goals for attending this program. This is where I first learn their stories and what may have led them to us.  Through this process, I begin to gain an understanding of the varied individuals who choose RMSP for their education. Each student brings with them  a uniqueness that contributes to the whole.

Throughout the planning process I approach each decision I make with a question regarding whether it makes sense in terms of facilitating the student toward reaching their goal.  Whether that is in the preparation of facilities, the hiring of instructors or assistants or how we encourage our students to step outside of their creative comfort zones; all of this involves the question “Is this the right fit for our program?”

Who are the instructors or assistants in the Career Training Program?
The members of our Career Training staff share a passion for their work as photographers and a desire to share their knowledge and experiences with our students.

Our instructors come to us by way of their accomplishments in photography careers who also have experience in education and a desire to teach.  Several of our instructors have been through Summer Intensive or the entire Career Training program themselves and have developed into fine instructors.  We also recruit instructors who were educated elsewhere that are working photographers who love what they do and teach what they know.

Our Program Assistants are drawn from the large pool of graduates who are eager to return to RMSP to provide the support and guidance that they received as students.  Career Training assistants are up and coming photographers who are in the process of building their own careers while they teach others.

What are some of the resources that are involved in the program?
The resources related to photography these days seem endless and one of our challenges is to determine which are most relevant for our students. We incorporate resources that support the curriculum and the realities of today’s diverse marketplace.

We introduce students to resources like studio lighting equipment/space and printing in our print lab.  HD video is now an important consideration for students entering this profession. Today’s technology is vast and we strive to provide students the opportunity for self-discovery using the latest materials, technique, equipment, etc. We have built relationships over the years with industry leading companies who serve as Educational Partners to RMSP. These relationships have allowed us to offer the students hands-on experience with products as they determine what they need to start their career.

How would you describe how important the experience was to those who have gone through the program?
I often hear from past students who are excited to tell me what they are doing since graduation and to let me know how much they miss us.  They miss Missoula, their teachers and friends but what they miss most is the experience.   I remind my staff every year prior to the start of the season that we don’t create the experience.  What we do is provide the framework, solid instruction, support and an environment that allows students to explore, risk and grow.

We’ve watched our graduates leave us and go on to make change in the world. This all starts with a change within themselves. It’s more about a personal understanding our students discover by allowing themselves the opportunity to expand.  They may not consciously have this in mind when they to decide to enroll, but we have seen transformations happen consistently.