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Alumna: Susana del Rio Kuroiwa

February 10, 2023

Alumna: Susana del Rio Kuroiwa

Susana del Rio Kuroiwa profile picture

Current Position / Employer:  Assistant Professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

Degree with Department Affiliation and Graduation Date:  MFA in Design, 2011

Thesis Title: Bridging Tradition and Technology: Virtual Recreation and Animation of the Peruvian Retablo.

1. Tell us what you are doing professionally at the current time.

After graduating from Ohio State University, I started teaching in two universities in Peru. I designed the undergraduate course “Digital Animation and Multimedia Projects” at the Communications Department in the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC). In my class, students became storytellers. They learned the pipeline of digital animation production by having the experience of creating a mini animated short movie, in groups. In the course, I began teaching and encouraging the use of Maya software, since 3D max has been the main animation software in my country.

Currently, I am teaching modeling and animation in the Art and Design Department at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP). Within the courses, we have worked on several projects and I love that. Inspired by an Italian experience, my peers and I conducted a social responsibility project through digital modeling. We asked students to model “huacos” from Nazca Culture in 3D software, that is, pottery artwork of this Pre-columbian culture. Then, we sent their virtual models for printing. Students and professors went all together to a children's shelter and took the 3D prints with us. We taught the kids about the Nazca pottery. The undergrad students interacted with the kids, and taught color theory to them. The kids had the opportunity to paint the 3D printed huacos.

In the last year, my peers and I invited a professor in history who informed our students about the 1700s and 1800s life in Lima, Peru. The students also visited the Historic Center of Lima, which was founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535. Then, the students worked in groups and created characters, environments and a fictional story in 3D, inspired by the information they gathered. The results were not only animated short movies, but also abilities related to teamwork.

Some years ago, I conducted a project that involved kids with low economic resources. I went to a public school and invited the teacher of the eighth Grade Spanish class to encourage their students to become storytellers. The students wrote short stories about problems of coexistence. My colleague and I took these stories to our animation class in the Communication Department at PUCP. We invited our students to work in groups and chose one of the stories to create a short animated movie. At the end of the course, the students created four video animations based on the kids' stories! During the pandemic, the school teacher gathered three of the four kids by zoom, and screened the animations that were based upon their stories.

2. What inspires your creativity today?

I like looking for different ways of approaching creativity and animation. At the bookstore, I enjoy reviewing books for kids, focusing on the illustrations. In general, I love looking at different illustrations on the internet. I am trying to learn more about art history. Sometimes I listen to a science topic and imagine how I could turn that information into a fun animated video. On other occasions, I see popular craft and think how it can be turned into a 3D virtual model. I watch animations, and I also like to read about studies in animation and other visual representations.

3. Tell us one “Aha” moment from your experience of studying, researching, or working at ACCAD.

When I visited ACCAD for the first time, I was amazed how they could link technology with different topics related to daily life and culture. I entered the Motion Capture lab and traveled to Japan through virtual reality. I did not know this was possible inside a university campus. I loved the projects they were working on. I was fascinated to discover how animation can collaborate with theater to create (digital) environments for a play. Once again this was done on campus through a research project. Until that point, I had never considered teaching in a university as a possibility for a professional career. Suddenly I felt very enthusiastic and comfortable with this. Learning at a university was not just lecturing in a classroom or a lab. The learning environment on campus was where creators, teachers and researchers could meet and explore new ideas together. At ACCAD, I discovered my professional path.

4. What would you say to your “Undergraduate” or “Graduate” self about studying at Ohio State now that you have graduated? Or what advice would you give to current students taking classes at ACCAD?

Since my current professional path is teaching, sometimes memories of ACCAD return. I remember my teachers and the moments they advised me how to improve my thesis project. In my mind I was grateful to them. I confess I planned to write them an email but as time passes, the e-mail is turning longer, then obligations come, and I have to go back to reality. I think, sometimes as students we don´t value how teachers take care of us. I think this reflection comes through life. Nobody teaches that, and when we learn that, it may be because now we are taking care of others.

Anyway, I would like to give two pieces of advice. To second year students at ACCAD, I would say keep on trying, don't give up. You will find a thesis topic, it's only a matter of brainstorming all the topics you are interested in. Talking to professors from different disciplines helps too. To postgraduate students I would say, don't feel discouraged. The first months or even the whole year after graduating can be tough, especially if you are an international student. After going back home, you may feel you come from another planet. It's not easy to immediately find a job that suits all the experience you had at OSU. But don't give up, you'll find your path.

5. How could Ohio State better prepare people for a career that combines art, design, computer science, digital media, and new technologies?

My thoughts may sound very far away from the question, but there's a connection. During the first year I studied at OSU, I lived in Jones Tower. At that time, it was a building for Graduate students. Then, it turned into a building for undergraduate students. I think it's important to offer buildings for graduate students, especially for international ones. It allows grad students from different parts of the world to meet each other. Then, they introduce these new friends to their classmates in a spontaneous way. Students began to connect. They share the projects they are working on. Also, they have a home, they have a family. It gives a sense of belonging. It helps students to increase their sense of wellness. If students are feeling great, they would work better on their projects. They are more creative because they interact with people from different backgrounds and perspectives.

6. What most helps you to balance life and career expectations? How do you relax or de-stress?

My life obligations obviously make me balance personal and professional life. I relax by talking to friends, or attending birthday party celebrations of my little son's classmates. I meet other moms and dads, and we exchange experiences. I like talking to peers, and love talking to my friends, it's a moment of catharsis. Waking up early and praying in the morning helps me a lot.

7. Tell us a fun thing (or something) most people don’t know about you?

Sometimes I don't speak and name things properly in Spanish, my mother tongue. Of course, it happens in English, too. When searching for graduate schools, someone sent me an email and recommended that I apply to The Ohio State University graduate program.

I always talked about my graduate school plans to Marcia Koth de Paredes. She was a GREAT American woman, and lived in Peru. I trusted her a lot. Later I would tell her that she was my fairy godmother. When I received the email recommending I apply to The Ohio State University, I shared this idea with Marcia. In English, I asked, ”Marcia, what do you think about the "university in Ohio"?” (meaning, Ohio State). ”Ohio University?”, she replied. “Ohio University has a great Film Department. You should apply”. I agreed. But, when I went back to the original email, it said, "The Ohio State University."  So I googled The Ohio State University and searched through the website. I eventually found ACCAD, saw the projects the grad students had done. Of course I liked it, and applied!

8. What would an alternate career choice be, if you could go back and choose a different path?

Everytime I go back to the past, I am grateful I earned an MFA in Design at OSU and worked in the ACCAD environment. After graduating from OSU, my career path changed a lot, and I started teaching at university programs. I think at Ohio State I not only defined my professional path, but my personal life too. I met my future husband at OSU. Years later our child was born in Peru, so my current life is a consequence of the path I chose. It was not easy to leave ACCAD, since my projects and ideas were taken seriously there. I missed that!  Maybe I would have continued messaging more friends I met at ACCAD, to keep the friendship we started. I have done this with one friend, and it really works! We text each other frequently and it has been 10 years. Hope it goes for more!

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