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Assistant professor animates ideas to life

Brent Wiley change in career path lead him to teaching at Bradley. Photo provided by Brent Wiley

It may seem surprising to students, but animation professor Brent Wiley started out his education with plans to go on to medical school.

While progressing through the curriculum to become a physician at the University of Kansas and taking art classes on the side, he realized the medical field wasn’t the best fit for him.

“I realized that while there’s money there … I need to go with what I’m really drawn to, and that was the arts,” Wiley said.

After this realization, he put all of his focus into his newfound passion by going to graduate school at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

“Man, that was like a piece of heaven,” Wiley said about his time in the Georgia school. “I enjoyed that so much.”

During his time after undergrad, Wiley was able to focus on his craft. One instance he said really impacted his career happened after posting his work on a discussion forum. Everyone was critiquing one another and making suggestions, but one person’s comment, in particular, stood out to him.

Jeremy Birn, a popular author of many animation textbooks known for his writings on the fundamentals of digital lighting and rendering, left a comment congratulating Wiley on a job well done and stated that he felt there was real potential in his work.

“That’s like Michael Jordan saying you have a good jump shot,” Wiley said. “Like, you still need to work on it, but Michael Jordan said it was good. That probably fueled me for the next year — for the next five years, even.”

Upon graduation, Wiley spent around a decade working in the animation industry.

Most of his time was spent creating animations for commercials, but he also spent a little bit of time in the conceptualizing phase before production. While he says he was very thankful for his time in this field, he eventually realized he was ready for something different.

“In the studio, I was the person generally designated to train other people,” Wiley said. “I realized I really did enjoy that aspect of showing people how to do things.”

After briefly teaching at Henry Ford Community College in Michigan, an opportunity arose at Bradley that ended up working perfectly for Wiley.

“In a teaching scholar environment, I’ve had the best of both worlds,” Wiley said. “I’ve been able to continue creating on my own, but I’ve also been able to work with young artists and help them with their formation.”

Tyler Spann, a senior animation major, believes Wiley impacted him in personal ways as well.

“Without Brent, I wouldn’t have a person of color as a professor in the interactive media department for me to come to about my problems and woes as a person of color,” Spann said. “[He] has a special place in my heart.”

Junior animation and game design double major Charli Kerr, another student Wiley has taught, spoke on how cared for they have always felt by the professor.

From long hours in the studio to extended office hours, Kerr said Wiley always made sure each individual in the classroom was doing the best they possibly could while understanding that life can get in the way sometimes.

“He is extremely patient and is always willing to put in the time to help other students and me no matter how long it takes,” Kerr said. “He’s understanding of the stress students are under and will adjust due dates when we need a little more time. He always puts students first before anything else, and he has helped me stay on track and improve my skills as an artist.”

With the willingness to learn from students, the hospitable faculty and the overall environment on campus, he describes his time at Bradley as more than what he ever could have asked for.

“Seeing all the new ideas coming up from the new programmers… that keeps me young,” Wiley said. “More than anything, I’m appreciative and thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Bradley family.”

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