Working in Vermont, You'll Love It

You’re almost there, I promise. It’s all too often implied that the last year of high school screams by at a dizzying pace. But with college applications, financial aid forms and all the other extra work that comes with graduating, sometimes it feels like the end will never come; and what about that end?
Picking a college, a major and eventually a career certainly doesn’t happen over night, but beginning the process can be downright overwhelming. So overwhelming, that you can miss what’s happening right in your own backyard. Every day Vermonters are leading the way in a variety of industries and academic circles. Cutting edge technologies and the highest quality products are the backbone of Vermont.
So here are just a few examples of what’s going on, right here in Vermont. And don’t be surprised if that dream job or that perfect school isn’t as far away as you think it is.
Sound Vision • Burlington, Vermont
Sound Vision, one of New England’s premier audio-visual production companies has been based in Burlington for nearly twenty years. The company specializes as a “one-stop shop for all of your audio-visual need” according to president and founder, Ralph Miner. “We’ve done everything from small-industry conferences to air shows.” Miner added.
While based right here in Burlington, Sound Vision has offices in Boston and Orlando, and brandishes the same reputation for high quality work in much larger markets. “We don’t say no.” Miner said. “If a customer wants something done, we try our best to make it happen, whether we’ve done it before or not.”
When Jamie Cone graduated from Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire she wasn’t certain where her degree in Communications would take her. The Essex native was anxious to put her four years of hard work to use. After checking out her options, Cone decided to take a job at a media company with an impressive resume which included producing high-profile events for the likes of President Bill Clinton, First Lady Laura Bush, and county music superstar Toby Keith. Unlike many of her friends however, Cone didn’t have to move to Boston or New York City, quite the contrary actually.
Cone’s decision to stay in Vermont, was a pretty simple one for her. “Being close to my family and friends is important to me.” Cone said. “Growing up in Vermont, it’s hard to match the quality of life here.” It’s also hard to beat the Queen City. “Burlington is awesome. It’s a lot of fun. There’s a real tight-knit sense of community here.”
Sound Vision has kept its edge in a rapidly changing industry. With new technologies developing at an incredible pace, the media firm has learned that without a real enthusiasm for emerging techniques, it’s hard to keep up with industry standards.
Miner offered some advice to young Vermonters. “You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to get excited about going to work, because for me, it’s not work. And I hope everyone finds something like I have.”
Electronic Game Development Program
Champlain College • Burlington, Vermont
There are a lot of different college majors out there; from astronomy to zoology and everything in between. But Champlain College in Burlington may offer one of the most exciting options available.
In the fall of 2006 Champlain began offering a degree in Electronic Gaming Development, in other words, designing and creating video games. Yup, that’s right; it is now possible to go to college and study Xbox.
Okay, so it’s not that easy, students who chose to enroll in the program will get in depth instruction in game design, development and animation. The program, which is one of a handful in the country, is very competitive offering only 100 seats per year.
Why Electronic Gaming?
Ann DeMarle, Director, Emergent Media Center at Champlain College and originator of the program says, “Champlain College realized that it was singularly positioned to become a leader for providing education in the rapidly growing yet nascent industry. We were the first to offer a bachelors in the Northeast and third in the nation.” 
The Electronic Game Development program has three distinct specializations. There is the Electronic Game and Interactive Development degree program in either Art & Animation for artists or Game Design, for those who design the game play and story.
Why Vermont?
Surprisingly, Vermont’s ties to the electronic gaming industry are quite strong. Vermont’s largest private employer, IBM, creates the chips which run all three major gaming consoles. Two other Vermont companies, Polhemus and Ascension Technology offer 3D scanning and motion tracking technologies. JDK Design agency designed the housing of Microsoft’s XBOX360 game console. And Computer Games Magazine is published in Richmond Vermont.
DeMarle says Vermont’s location also falls right into place for this emerging industry. “Located only miles from Montreal which has one of the largest growing game development industries in the Americas. Two of the largest international game developers in the world are located in Montreal, Electronic Arts, 1st and Ubisoft, 7th.”
The Northeast, which is Champlain’s traditional recruitment area, is second only to California in US game development employment.
Champlain College is poised to become a leader in this truly cutting edge industry, and they’ll be doing it from right here in the Green Mountains.
Advanced Animations • Stockbridge, Vermont
After working in New York City at a toy prototyping company, Mike Ridge was offered a job at Advanced Animations in Stockbridge, Vermont. Ridge, a sculptor and graduate of Syracuse University, took the job and made the move.
Advanced Animations creates animatronic characters for the theme park industry, museum exhibits, casinos, and other educational and entertainment venues. They’ve created characters for Universal Studios, MGM Grand, and Disney.
“This job was a dream come true.” Ridge said. “I love getting paid to make cool stuff: Dinosaurs, fantasy creatures, cartoon characters. I have a passion for sculpting, and I love the subject matter we often work on.” He added
Part of Ridge’s dream job is its location. “Being in Vermont is great.  I’ve always loved special effects, but have never wanted to move to the west coast because of the hectic quality of life in California. Working at Advanced Animations is perfect. Ridge commented. “I like hiking, biking, gardening and just enjoying the outdoors. Vermont has all that, as well as a laid back pace. I feel lucky to have found a company where I can do what I love and still enjoy the quality of life Vermont has to offer.”
Ridge also had a bit of advice for any aspiring artists out there. “Any high school senior
looking to be an artist needs to practice.  Draw and sculpt all the time, every chance you get, and enjoy it while you’re doing it.  Commuting on a bus?  Draw! Bored in study hall?  Draw!  Watching TV in the evening?  Draw or sculpt while you’re doing it.  I think there’s such a thing as natural talent, but it will only get you so far.”
“Work hard and don’t give up.  To an extent, how much you grow and learn as an artist is up to you.” Ridge added.