Spotlight on Engineering and Humanities Alumni: Andrew Frueh
Name: Andrew Frueh
Education (UR and additional): B.A. in Computer Science and B.A. in Studio Arts, University of Rochester, 2003. M.F.A. in Imaging Arts and Sciences / Computer Animation, Rochester Institute of Technology, 2010.
Current city/state of residence: Salt Lake City, Utah
Job Title: Creative Director
Employer: Infuse Medical
Family: My wife, Karen Copeland (Eastman ’03); and our Icelandic Sheepdog, Kalla
Community activities: I volunteer once a week at the Ching Farm Rescue and Sanctuary to help feeding pigs and birds (http://www.chingsanctuary.org/). I’m also very into endurance sports (distance running, cycling, triathlon) – a hobby my freshman year roommate and I started together.
Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?
Initially , I was interested in UR because it was well regarded in college rankings and had a strong computer science department. But when I came and visited the campus the first time was what really sold me. Everything from the layout of the campus to the general vibe just felt right. And then the Rush Rhee’s scholarship sealed the deal.
When and how did you choose your major?
I knew I wanted to be a computer science major right from the beginning. I taught myself how to program in high school as a hobby, and CS was the hot major in ‘99. However the summer of my sophomore year I had an internship at a software engineering company, and I realized I wanted to do more than just write code. So I decided to pursue computer animation and digital art. I switched from a BS in Computer Science to a BA, and added a second major in Studio Art.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
I started singing with the Midnight Ramblers the spring semester of my sophomore year, and I directed the group in my senior year. The group gave me the opportunity to become friends with an amazing group of guys, and take part in dozens of experiences I never would have been able to otherwise. Directing the group was particularly helpful to me because it was my first serious leadership experience, and the lessons I took from that were invaluable.
What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?
I made regular use of the Multimedia Center for my digital art projects, all the gear that was available there was extremely useful.
Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?
Probably my two biggest mentors while on campus also happened to be my academic advisors for my two majors: Ted Pawlicki in Computer Science and Allen Topolski in Studio Art. Both were knowledgeable and supportive and helped me find my own way with one foot in each major. Yes, I do continue to keep in contact with them, and had the opportunity to get together with both of them last year when I was back in Rochester screening my thesis film for my MFA.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
I started interning for an educational media company, Truth-n-Beauty, in my junior year. Two UR professors, Adam Frank and Ted Pawlicki, started the company. We created animation and interactive software for museums, textbooks, websites, etc. Working there was a blast, and little did I know I was laying the foundation for the rest of my career. When I graduated in ’03, I decided to work for TnB full-time.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I’m a Creative Director for Infuse Medical, a medical education agency based in Salt Lake City, UT. We create marketing and training media primarily for medical device companies – anything from iPad applications, to 3D animation, to interactive tradeshow exhibits. As a Creative Director I work with clients to understand their needs develop a vision for a project. Then I lead our team of artists and developers to bring that vision to life. The work I do now is really an extension of the work I started doing when I begin interning at Truth-n-Beauty my junior year. I’ve continued building on that experience throughout my career and it has led me to where I am now.
What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?
Probably the biggest thing is the ability to think creatively across a wide variety of disciplines. When a client comes to us with a project, I need to be able to decide not only how to make something visually appealing, but also how we can create it technically. My work requires me to be a generalist, not a specialist. I think the broad range of experiences I gained at U of R played a big part in making that possible.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
That’s always a challenge, especially with client-based work, because everybody wants their project yesterday. I think a big part of maintaining that balance is finding a company that believes it is important. There are plenty of companies out there that will work you into the ground, and then replace you when you’re burned out. So look carefully when you’re applying to companies and talk to other employees. In my experience, finding a company that values their people is a huge factor in overall job satisfaction.
Where would you like to be in five years?
Five years is a long way out. I think setting long term goals like that can be counter-productive. You never know what the universe has in store for you, and I think you have to stay open to possibilities when they show up – even if they aren’t what you were planning on. From year to year, if I can look back at my work and see growth and improvement, that’s enough for me.
How are you still connected with the University?
Mostly through friends and former professors.
What advice do you have for current students?
Take internships! Even though the UR doesn’t the greatest system for them (you have to pay for the credit hours – and you can’t be paid by the employer), they are some of the most valuable experiences you’ll get. They are an opportunity to test out your chosen career and see if it suits you. Then if you’re like me and you find out it isn’t an exact fit, you can make a change and try something different. It’s also a great way to see how well the skills you’ve gained in the classroom apply to the real world. That way when you come back to the classroom you have a whole different appreciation for what’s being taught.