Jennifer Gaida '14
“It was like working with an Amherst professor, someone committed to making sure the material is understood not just in terms of the project but also its theoretical applications.”
Last summer Jennifer Gaida ’14 interned with JAMS, a production company in Los Angeles that develops films, television shows and graphic novels. She did it virtually—from Chicago where she was living with her sister. Each workday started with a telephone call from the company’s CEO and Chief Storyteller, Jonah Ansell ’03.
"During our morning calls, Jonah outlined characters and plots of original shows or films and also emailed descriptions. Then I would work to create visual representations that captured both detail and atmosphere in an accurate way," said Gaida, an art and the history of art major from South Carolina.
The internship, which Gaida found through the Amherst Select Internship Program, far exceeded her expectations. “I was excited from the start because I wanted to explore the art and media fields. Jonah invited me to do that in a hands-on way and was an incredible mentor,” she said. “It was like working with an Amherst professor, someone committed to making sure the material is understood not just in terms of the project but also its theoretical applications.”
Gaida also appreciated Ansell’s liberal arts mindset—his work draws on everything from philosophy to political science. “I go into any job wanting to make sure what I put out into the world is something positive. I was fortunate because I believe Jonah does this with every project he undertakes.”
Since working with Ansell, Gaida is convinced that her future lies in the creative art industry. During her Amherst years, she has spent a great deal of time building her portfolio, which she describes as mixed media works incorporating pen and ink, acrylics, watercolors and drawing. As she looks toward her senior year, she’s considering a written research thesis but may opt for a more creative project.
More immediately, though, Gaida is looking forward to another summer in Chicago where she’ll be collaborating with a colleague on the writing and illustration of a children’s book. She plans to volunteer for the Art Institute of Chicago—and continue working with Ansell.
“Coming to Amherst, I knew that professors were extremely dedicated to helping students. But I wasn’t fully aware of how alumni make themselves available as a resource,” she said. “I’ve contacted alumni just about moving to a new city and they were incredibly helpful. Then there are opportunities like interning with an artist and entrepreneur such as Jonah that can be life changing for students. Someday I hope to be part of the cycle of giving back to students in a similar way.”