I have always had big ideas. I have always tried to solve big problems. In 2002, I completed a PhD in Urban Studies with a focus on modern day witch hunts. I examined how communities use local and national media to craft stories with archetypal good guys and bad guys in order to get information out there that fits the dominant social narrative. I completed my research after spending several years in the entertainment industry. I also am a member of a religious minority and know how easy it is to be turned into a pariah. In getting a PhD, my intention was to either work in academia, or work for a network in Los Angeles or an international media market offering a new perspective on the intersections of human geography and media representation.
LSU came calling in 2003, and I leapt at the chance to be part of something that would change everything about the state where I had grown up. The Governor of Louisiana had passed legislation allocating funds to five Louisiana universities for the explicit purpose of changing the state's economy. Louisiana was too reliant on the oil and gas industry and tourism, and Governor Mike Foster was committed to setting a new vision for a Louisiana that would be competitive in the 21st century. Of the five Universities that received what was called the Vision 2020 funds, only Louisiana State University, the largest, and the state's flagship institution, set about to create a research center that would be self-sustaining.
I was part of the founding team of the LSU Center for Computation and Technology. I joined in 2003 as one of the first ten people hired at the center. I accomplished almost every goal I set for my program, and the center, as its first Associate Director for Research and Economic Development. At the end of eight years there, my research into distance learning took me out of LSU as an academic, and into the heady world of tech entrepreneurship. I had been developing my software on my own since 2009, and in 2011 secured first round funding to bring Omnicademy to universities around the US.
Louisiana is not Silicon Valley, and we failed to get further funding to keep Omnicademy going. In 2012, I returned to Los Angeles, and enrolled in Pacifica Graduate Institute's Depth Psychology program. The program at Pacifica was psychoactive, and often deeply challenging. When it came time to choose a research topic for my thesis I wanted to stick with animation. I wanted to examine the representation of women across the entire Disney canon from 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to 2013's Frozen. But that was too ambitious to be completed in a master's program, so I focused on just two films: Disney's Frozen, and Disney's Maleficent. I uncovered a pattern of female representations in stories regardless of the form.
What I discovered would have ramifications for storytelling across every genre. I had inadvertently stumbled onto the REASON the hero's journey had never worked for me personally- not as someone who loved story, but as a woman looking for archetypes to explain my own life's trajectory. Why had the quest never called me? What was it about being a woman that made it difficult to find the elixir of life and bring it back to my people? Was there something wrong with me? Was I doing it wrong?
It's just that the Hero's Journey is not for women. We have our own path. On the Hero's Journey (or Heroine's Journey) women are seen as impostors. We don't belong there- and all the stories, myths, and narratives- whether fairy tales, or psychological examinations tell us not just the why, but the how.
All women go through an archetypal process of being DIVIDED, and if we are lucky, we have the opportunity to reconnect the divided pieces and become sovereign over our own lives. The Divided Woman is in every culture, in every story- and at the end of the path, she becomes a QUEEN.
Today I have found my domain. I am a psychotherapist who works primarily with creative people. As this path came into focus through my research I realized that I too had been living the archetypal pattern without realizing it. Everywhere I had been a MIPE, in the university, in technology, in entrepreneurship, in studios. I had tried to be a Hero, and was almost always met with open arms at first, and later pushed to the margins. That is the MIPE archetypal pattern. In the workplace, the safe role is the MISOR, the helper, the one who is quiet, demure, and submissive. I was terrible at that. I constantly examined, re-examined, and relaunched myself to do better work, learn more, be a better hero-- to no avail. Because for a woman to have power, she must either double down on the MIPE role, and run the risk of being consumed by her will, or she must become a queen, reconnecting the ostracized pieces of herself, and experiencing her own physical transcendence, and gathering her tribe around her.
I spent eight years at Louisiana State University at the Center for Computation & Technology (CCT) where I was the Director for Economic Development. In this role I was responsible for working with the Governor's Office, the Louisiana State Office of Economic Development, and the LSU Governmental Affairs office for integration with LSU's legislative agenda. I also spent a great deal of effort forging partnerships with industry, other institutions, and international markets to forge relationships. The CCT was established by the governor of Louisiana's Vision 2020 agenda, the goal of which was to contribute to a change in the Louisiana Economy across multiple areas of interest: High Performance Computing, Digital Arts & Sciences, Computational Biology, Business Innovation, and High Speed Networks. As a result of my work, an entire new sector was added to the Louisiana Economy- companies, grants, an animation festival, game development studios, animation studios, and visual effects, and post production facilities all were added to the Louisiana economy as part of this agenda. Multiple companies relocated to Louisiana as part of my efforts. As part of my work I created the Baton Rouge Area Digital Industries Consortium (BRADIC) which helped recruit companies to Southern Louisiana. I also co-created the Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies, & Research (AVATAR) program at LSU. I founded the Red Stick International Animation Festival, which while it was running under my office became the largest animation festival in the US. My crowning achievement at LSU was shepherding a partnership between LSU, the Governor's Office and Electronic Arts. This collaboration brought $38M to LSU, created several new degree programs, and brought awareness to new and different career options to high school students throughout the state. Through BRADIC we also communicated to companies, industry leaders, and other governments (from local to international) what was possible when industry, education, and local governments collaborated not just to create new opportunities, but to tell a NEW story.
I am most proud that during my time at LSU I made significant change to what is POSSIBLE for the people of Louisiana. Young people there no longer have to choose between working in a petroleum refinery or leaving the state. They have more choices than the ones I had, than the ones my parents had. The state has a booming entertainment industry. I am not the only one who contributed to that reality, but I know that my work was foundational to Louisiana's success, and I am very, very proud to have participated in a meaningful way.
In my time at LSU I was part of a research project that endeavored to share digital video and audio in real time. This was more than a decade before Skype or Zoom. Our research helped pave the way for high speed network connections for video and collaborative content as shared by Cisco, Skype. and later Zoom and more. For me the most interesting thing about our research was that students DIDN'T WANT to share with just their local classmates, and they didn't need to be synchronous. Trends that we see much more clearly today in social media networks, and online learning Today this idea is obvious, especially post COVID, but in 2009 when I was raising money and creating software, it was novel... even CRAZY to think this could be the future. I won awards, prestige, and lots of attention for what came out of that research, a company and software called OMNICADEMY, and while the ideas helped to create the ideas that helped change online education, the funding model was tied to Universities, and that required far more capital than was available at the time.
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