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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Azure Bowie-Hankins

Videogame Producer, Electronic Arts
Mills College (CA), Class of 2007
Azure Bowie-Hankins has worked in the video game industry for seven years on a variety of titles, including MySims and The Sims 3. She is currently a part of the production team for The Sims 4. In her spare time she likes to sing and play piano at small shows, pretending to be a rock star. She graduated from Mills College in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, then completed an MBA in 2008.
Six years after graduating from Mills College, I’m confident that Mills was the best educational choice for me. My diplomas say that I completed the BA/MBA Program, but they don’t describe the road that led me to graduation.
 
I arrived at Mills as a music major, but knew immediately that I would be switching my major to dance. The arts community at Mills is vibrant. I looked forward to waking up every single day, exploring the world through dance, and immersing myself in the rich history of the art form. My first two years as a dance major taught me about passion and life’s rewards when you follow it.
 
I’m a prime example of the benefits of a liberal arts education. In my sophomore year, I suffered an injury and had to rethink my major. The structure of Mills’ liberal arts program gave me the opportunity to take classes outside of my field, and I discovered an appreciation for economics. I was able to make a smooth transition between majors, even as I was going through an emotional time, putting aside the dreams I had strived for with dance.

In my sophomore year, I suffered an injury and had to rethink my major. The structure of Mills’ liberal arts program gave me the opportunity to take classes outside of my field, and I discovered an appreciation for economics. 

I would stress here that when I pivoted from dance to business and economics, I did not sacrifice passion in my education. Some of the best advice I have ever received came from Nancy Thornborrow, professor of economics at Mills and founding dean of the college’s Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business. I was struggling to come up with ideas for internships to apply to. Nancy encouraged me to look at the hobbies that I enjoyed outside of my studies. I’d loved video games since I was a kid, but I’d always considered gaming to be just a hobby. I’d never considered that I could turn my passion for games into a career.
 
The following summer, I interned for Electronic Arts, working with people who had created some of my favorite games. When summer ended, I knew that the gaming industry was the industry where I wanted to build my career. Today I’m a producer on The Sims 4 team, helping to craft the next iteration of a game that I’ve loved since middle school. It’s my dream job, and I never would have ended up here if it weren’t for Mills. Mills taught me about the importance of passion, and I learned never to settle for a career path that I’m not excited about. The Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business gave me the tools to be a good producer. The courses highlight effective teamwork, one of the most valuable skillsets that I gained at Mills. I learned the importance of highlighting the strength of individuals within a team to create a harmonious and effective environment that can produce good work.
 
When I look back on my Mills education, I recognize the building blocks that helped to shape my life into what it is today, and it fuels my pride in being a Mills alumna.
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