TBT: Tens Years, Tons of Inspiration
Wow. Ten years. It seems like only yesterday when an upstart politician named Barack Obama was making a play for the White House, Adele was 19 and a group of Texas State students saw a young Mark Zuckerberg talk about his big vision for the relatively new Facebook at SXSW 2008.
I first attended SXSW Interactive in 2005 and was instantly hooked by the ideas, inspiration and community that this event was just beginning to ignite. Each time I attended, I couldn’t help but think that while this was cool for me, it would be awesome to get students involved. We talked about these concepts in class, read about the people attending. I remember sending an email to the SXSW press office in early 2008 – before I knew a soul in the organization – inquiring about getting press access for students and being pleasantly surprised when they were willing to work with us in providing day passes.
That first year, we were but a mere Blogger blog. Students were able to hear from the aforementioned Zuck, entrepreneurs Mark Cuban and Kevin Rose, humorists Ask a Ninja, gamer Jane McGonigal and Post Secret’s Frank Warren. We were just getting into Twitter and most of us didn’t have smartphones then. We used digital cameras and camcorders that used tape and firewire, back in the day.
Since then, the project has morphed into its own class, a self-hosted WordPress site and every social media platform. We’ve used Beluga, GroupMe, WhatsApp and Slack to communicate over the years. We are immersed in mobile reporting and each year we try to make sure we are using whatever new applications are being talked about at SXSW.
There are 1194 posts on this site as of this date, but expect another 100+ over the next few weeks. We have hundreds of photos that document the progress of this project with SXSW over the years.
We’ve held a taco party for years where students get to network with visiting professionals, had a hackathon and are now part of the TXST Innovation Lab at SXSW. We now meet with members of the SXSW team both before and after the event. And we’ve had a lot of fun. It’s definitely one of those “work hard, play hard” kind of things.
More than 80 students have gone through this project. Many have gone on to digital careers, some of those jobs that didn’t even exist back in 2008. They now work at The New York Times, NPR, Statesman, Spredfast, HomeAway, Zenoss, Main Street Hub and more. We’ve even had students go to work at SXSW. They live across the US and globally in New York, Dallas, LA, Chicago, London. Some even work on our faculty. They’ve spoken on their own panels and had films screened at SXSW since their newbie year.
This year, we introduce a special feature. It’s our Throwback Thursday. We’ll be spotlighting past SXTXState participants – “where-are-they-now” – to find out what they’ve been up to since their first time attending SXSW and leaving our program. Please check back each week on Thursday for these articles.
I often say that the biggest benefit for students to attend SXSW is to give them something to talk about. The enthusiasm for technology that is a natural result of attending this event just radiates from them, and employers have been attracted to their broad appreciation of creativity, innovation and the future of media. We’ve seen ideas come and ideas go in the past ten years. I wonder what the next ten will hold. But I know that with SXSW’s help, TXST grads will continue to be well positioned to influence the future.
See all our Throwback Thursday SXTXState Alumni each week on Thursdays leading up to SXSW.