Monday Mentors: Meet Daniel Cardona, Alumnus Studio Mentor

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Monday, October 9th, 2023

As a Studio Mentor at PCA&D, Daniel Cardona has pretty good insight into what questions current students may have, and what stumbling blocks they may face:

That’s because he was one of them, not too long ago.

The 2021 PCA&D graduate in Animation & Game Art works with students from any department who need a bit of assistance with using technology to make their art. And, as a recent grad, he has a full understanding of what assignments they’re tackling — and the solutions to their questions. 

Do you work with students from all majors, or primarily AGA? Do you work with mostly upperclass students, or can anyone contact you for assistance? 

Daniel Cardona: Having my degree in AGA, I do mostly work with that department. However, I work with students from any major and any class because we all use technology to aid in creation nowadays. Whether it be help in rigging a complex 3D character or just opening a computer for the first time, I help out students any way I can. 

Can you give an example of some projects on which you might work with a student? 

DC: Most of the time I spend with students is helping them with specific projects. For example, if a student needs help with an assignment in Adobe Illustrator, I will spend the time with them teaching the tools and techniques to help them learn the software and get the assignment completed. Something I try to help students understand when it comes to approaching software and digital tools is that they have to first get through the technical problem-solving before they can get to the creative problem-solving. I also help students with developing skills outside of the software side of things. This does include project and time management, problem-solving, and how to effectively communicate. 

How does a student access your assistance?

DC: A student can reach out to their professors and request a tutor/mentor, to which I am notified through the grapevine, or they can contact me directly through my school email, Danielcardona@pcad.edu. Alternatively, if a student is also in the PCA&D SIGGRAPH Discord, they can reach out to me there directly as well. 

Does being an alumnus of PCA&D give you some insight into the projects that you’re helping with? Do you remember having similar assignments yourself?

DC: Being an (alumnus) that recently graduated makes it pretty easy to know the assignments that the students are currently tackling. For the first couple of years doing this, it was honestly a weird transition from being a student to now being the one teaching my friends from lower classes. With that said, though, it is nice to see new generations of students being able to grow and develop their creative skills with progressively better assignments over time. 

What do you find most rewarding about this work? Can you share an example of a time when you’ve been really effective helping a student?

DC: What I find most rewarding, especially coming from AGA, is seeing when students fight through their creative struggles and are able to accomplish goals they set out for themselves. Being able to have a helping hand in that and see what they create is amazing, especially knowing how big the learning curves can be depending on the processes they may use. 

There was a time when a senior in AGA was struggling, and had no idea how to finish their senior thesis. I spent time with them regularly helping them develop a plan, selecting which software to use, and making sure they were hitting their deadlines. When it came to it, the student was not only able to finish their thesis but also still graduate on time.