Kelly Tran, MADAS 2013, is an Assistant Professor of Game Design and Interactive Media at High Point University. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree and later master’s degree from the University of Florida before pursuing doctoral studies in Learning, Literacies, and Technologies at Arizona State University. Today, she teaches games and their impact on society. Her research interests include games for learning and digital and analog game design.
In what ways did your Digital Arts & Sciences (DAS) experience [at the Digital Worlds Institute] prepare you for your career?
It really set me on my path. I didn’t know what I wanted to do before I came to Digital Worlds, it just seemed like a cool program. But through my work with professors there, and projects I did, I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
What do you like most about your current career?
Right now, I’m a professor of game design. I love games, and I love talking about games. Every day I get to do what I love; I talk about what I love and work in design spaces. If I could go back and tell my 12-year-old self I had a career in video games; it would be the dream.
What are your favorite DAS memories?
A big part of it was my particular cohort and the cohort after me, so the experiences that I had with other students. There were many team projects — I really enjoyed doing those, and I learned a lot, certainly from my classes and from working with people. And, of course, I love Gainesville. I really went there for my undergraduate, and I returned for my master’s degree. I was just really happy to be back. Now that I’ve lived in other college towns, I think I didn’t appreciate how special Gainesville is.
What advice would you give to current Digital Arts & Sciences students?
I would say to do as much as you can outside of your classes. Don’t just do your coursework, but work on projects outside of class, get together with your classmates. Talk about the stuff that you’re working on and find opportunities to build your portfolio. And for the masters students specifically, I would say to really look at your thesis and how your thesis will do something for you. It’s not just a checkmark. For me, it turned into a conference presentation and something to use when I was applying to Ph.D. programs. So whatever your career goals are, I would definitely think about how you can make your thesis and any coursework whatsoever work for you as well.