Alumni Spotlight: Ben West

In Alumni Profiles, Campus News by Impact Admin

Year of Graduation: 2015

Position: Graphic Designer at BAE Systems GXP, a company which provides high-tech software for global defense, aerospace, and security needs.

Major/Emphasis: Communications Media

Where are you from originally?

Originally, I am from the White Mountains of Arizona. I loved growing up there because we got all four seasons, but not too much snow in the winter. It’s the pretty part of Arizona that no one ever hears about.

Why did you choose John Paul the Great Catholic University?

I chose JPCatholic because I knew that I wanted to study media, but I also didn’t want to lose my faith. By the grace of God, I had the wherewithal to acknowledge how fledgling my faith was after graduating high school and realized that if I were to immerse myself in a secular environment, there was going to be very little to keep me from falling away. It was a real crossroads for me. JPCatholic had the right mix of faith and academics that I was looking for, and I’ve never regretted my decision to attend.

What did you enjoy most about your time at JPCatholic?

The thing that I enjoyed most was the community of friends that I made there. Not only did I meet my amazing wife while studying at JPCatholic, but I made friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. Sharing a worldview and set of convictions with the people around me had such a uniting effect that the communities we formed were tight-knit and nourishing. I still keep in touch with my roommates on a weekly basis even though we all live in different parts of the country.

How many jobs have you worked since graduation? Describe your career journey a little bit.

I have worked one job since graduating two years ago. My career started with an internship I had at Drive Studios while I was an undergrad. I interned there for a year and a half, and the hands-on learning and work that I did there really set me up to be successful at my current job.

Where do you work now, and how did you find that job?

I currently work at BAE Systems GXP in San Diego as part of the marketing team.

It’s actually a funny story. The president of the school and one of our theology professors were aware of the job opening and cornered my wife (then girlfriend), begging her to apply for it. However, when she saw how motion graphics-heavy the responsibilities were, she passed the job listing on to me because her specialty is video editing. I followed the lead and with the help of a friend who already was on the marketing team at BAE, I was able to have a successful interview and ultimately landed the job.

What do you do on the job?

I’m the video guy, so I create motion graphics videos that show our various software products in action. My job is basically to make the products look cool so that people want to buy them.

How did JPCatholic prepare you for this job?

The class that most prepared me for this job was called “Designing For The Screen,” taught by Nick DiNapoli. When I was attending JPCatholic, there weren’t any motion graphics classes aside from Compositing and Color Grading (where you could learn the very basics of Adobe After Effects), so being able to take a class that went into detail on the various aspects of design really helped me to discover my talent for graphic design and motion graphics.

How do you feel you are impacting the culture for Christ through your job?

The way that I impact culture for Christ through this job is during my interactions with my co-workers. Because I’m creating work that is very utilitarian in it’s purpose (though noble in its intent to equip and defend the warfighter and our emergency response personnel), I’ve found that the best and most immediate way for me to live out this mission is through my day-to-day life as a follower of Christ. I’ve had to take on a very St. Therese mentality of doing everything with great love so that hopefully through me the people who I work with encounter Christ. I have pictures of Divine Mercy, JPII, and Pope Francis hanging in my cubicle, carry a rosary with me and do my best not to shy away from mentioning my Catholic identity. This way, many of my coworkers can feel open to engage me on topics of faith, and through those conversations I hope to bring Christ to them in whatever manner or portion He sees fit. I’ve been surprised at the number of people who, despite not being Catholic, have opened up to me on finding out about my faith life, and those connections have elevated our relationships from coworkers to friends.

What is the best advice you could give a prospective student interested in media?

The best advice that I could give to a prospective student would be to come and visit the school. There’s only so much you can learn about a school from looking at their website or watching the content that it produces. Visiting the school allows you to really get a feel for the culture there so you can know if it’s the right fit for you.  

I would also say to keep making things. Even if you don’t love everything you make, it’s tremendously important to always be flexing that creative muscle. It’s how you discover where your passions lie and how you come to master your craft.