Jason Stephens – AEMM Faculty - Entrepreneurship, Finance, Business of Film Industry
Jason Stephens is probably the least pretentious person you may ever meet. It is clear, when you talk to him, that he is passionate about art, economics, and possibly more than anything, education – whether that be his own, that which he imparts on his students, or the education passed from one human being to another, he’s all about it.
Sitting in his office, a cup of tea in hand, he laughingly explains that he reserves coffee as a special treat for the weekends.
By his mid-thirties, he has already started and lived with the life span of an operating non-profit, is a full time faculty member of the AEMM department at Columbia College, and sits as the Treasurer on the Board of the incredible company, Kartemquin Films.
While Jason is an Alumni of Columbia’s AEMM Graduate program, he is a firm believer in taking an active approach in education. Sitting by and thinking that someone will hand anyone life on a shining silver platter simply isn’t an option. He works tirelessly to lead by example:
“I am thankful that Columbia did provide that infrastructure, but also said you have to figure out how to make it work because that is what it’s like in the real world. Very rarely are we handed things. Well we are handed a lot of things we just don’t always know how to put them together. My experience here at Columbia helped me to learn how to put things together, that was the combination of the environment, the people—my colleagues as I would say, at the time my classmates, my advisors, which would be the teachers, and what I have come to do. That’s partly why I have come in to the teaching route, because I wanted to pass down the knowledge in a way that I had it passed down to me….So that’s what I want to learn how to do now, so that the students I am providing that to, are one step ahead and can assemble those pieces in a whole new way.”
As if Jason Stephens isn’t interesting enough, he has managed to find a great balance between his work, and his personal life. He hopes to someday build a cabin, something that could be a “little piece of paradise. A little piece in nature.” He also has an ever growing art collection that will never cease to strike up conversation. Xenia Hausner, a German artist, happens to be one of his favorite artists who paints portraitures of everyday people.
“One of my favorites is of a girl and in the background you see some bodies of some individuals in formal wear, they are cut off at the neck. And you see the girl and she is sitting down and looking out, and she is much less formal. I always like that piece because it reminds me of the fundraising I did, particularly when I was a grad student, and I was still kind of finding my place. It always reminds me of that dichotomy of those who fund the arts, and those put in the time to help make that happen. “
For Jason, his teaching is his experience. Everything he does in the classroom stems from his experience and the people who he has encountered throughout the years. He sees every single day as an educational opportunity.
“It is a chance to think about, ‘What am I experiencing today and how does that apply to what I know? Or, what is something new that I can take away from that or look up and gain a broader perspective on.’ It’s not every day – I take days off. But I think what has really benefitted me, is looking at experience as a constant classroom.”
While there is close to nothing that Mr. Stephens regrets, he experienced an ongoing struggle of learning how to manage people.
Haven’t we all?
Jason, however, has realized that there is a way to inspire and be inspired by a wide range of people and personality types. For starters, he tries to find the commonality among our dividing differences. That seems like a paradox, right? He thought so too. The trend has been, for him, that at the root of most differences is something you hold in common with each other; this allows for the freedom to bridge those divides to do something greater.
Words of wisdom: Take advantage of your opportunities right now. Don’t say “Oh I’ll do it later.” Just do it now.
Along with that, don’t be afraid to fail; because that’s how we learn how to do it better the next time. If there is any time to learn from failure, now is the best time to do it.
Inspired yet? Just imagine what life would be like if everyone learned from Jason’s humble example, and lived every moment with an intentional element of education and growth? It would be amazing.
Renee Rock | AEMM Graduate Assistant