EU Alumni Perspective: Vanna Bushong
Name: Vanna Bushong
Graduation Year: 2010
Major: Computer Science and Marketing
Current Position: Coordinating Designer Motion Graphics / Software Developer, ESPN
City and State: Bristol, CT
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
I moved to Los Angeles following my Evangel graduation, where I earned a Master’s degree in Computer Science at UCLA. My research focus was in computer graphics and vision, and in addition to my classes in the engineering department, I had the opportunity to study 3D animation in the film department under industry professionals from Disney and DreamWorks. This crossover gave me valuable experience on the creative side of graphics, along with helping me become a better programmer writing software for creative users. During my time in LA, I held an internship at Dolby Laboratories, developing tools for post-production video software. After graduating from UCLA, I accepted a touchscreen developer position with ESPN in Connecticut, where I have been for the last seven years.
My career at ESPN began with developing software for touchscreens used on TV broadcasts, including SportsCenter and NFL Live. These applications are used in ESPN studios around the world, and I have trained many hosts and analysts on how to use them before going on camera. I have coordinated the execution of touchscreen segments at live events including the Masters, NFL Draft, NBA Draft and the Heisman Trophy Presentation. Today, I am leading a small touchscreen team in upgrading our older graphics to a new platform, along with building new requests.
In recent years, my role at ESPN has expanded to include development of virtual graphic control apps and data-driven animations. In 2019, I wrote an app to plot baseball hit tracking data in an augmented reality graphic for our broadcast of the Home Run Derby. Over the past two years, I have focused on NBA data visualization and applying game engine technology to create animated shot charts. This project has allowed me to simultaneously be a programmer and animator, incorporating both the technical and artistic sides I enjoy. I currently build shot charts for our NBA game broadcasts and SportsCenter, as well as digital and social media platforms.
What is your favorite memory from Evangel?
I asked President Spence if he would appear in a short film I was working on for a class project one semester. He didn’t know me, and the film was entirely comedic, so I didn’t expect a response. To my surprise, he said yes and met me to shoot what was maybe a ten second scene in a park. I’ve worked with many TV personalities since then, but directing the legendary President Spence himself still tops them all!
How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to create things with computers, but I didn’t know exactly where or what that would entail. When looking at colleges, Evangel was a rare find because it offered both a Christian education and a Computer Science major. Being on campus and meeting professors who encouraged faith and academics confirmed that my calling was to serve the Lord in a technical field.
How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?
In my second year at Evangel, I added a second major (Marketing), which gave me a more diverse skillset and experience as a software developer after graduation. I wrote a computer game for my senior project in Computer Science and geared it toward a competition with the Phi Beta Lambda business organization. I am grateful my professors supported me in both fields, and I carried this mindset into graduate school where I also took on an inter-departmental research project. I believe this has helped me connect with the wide variety of people I work with who do not have a computer science
background. I try to understand what stories they want to tell through visual media and how I can write software to help them.
Evangel also gave me opportunities to get involved in several activities beyond the classroom – sports, student government, hall council – that prepared me for future leadership roles.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
I advise students to enjoy the process of learning, because it does not end when you graduate. The workforce needs people who love to learn and apply knowledge to solve problems. Challenge yourself with a project that requires research into a new area for you. I also encourage joining extra-curricular activities. In addition to simply having fun and making connections, these can show employers you have skills in teamwork and communication. Most importantly, though, keep your relationship with God a top priority and He will open the right doors for you.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?
Although I am not currently in a position to hire, I have assisted with a few interviews in the past. Generally speaking, everyone who gets an interview in our department is going to have the baseline skills to do the job, so I would look beyond those for someone who is ambitious, willing to learn and take direction, and strives to make themselves better. I would discuss what they have learned from their previous work experience or academic projects that they can bring to our company. I work in a creative department, so visual examples are critical. A strong portfolio or demo reel is necessary for designers, but even for a technical position like mine, it can help set a candidate apart.