Rising Star Q&A: Jason James

Jason James received the ComArtSci Alumni Board's Rising Star Award in 2011. James graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunication and a master’s in telecommunication in 2007. James is currently an advanced business systems analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. His main responsibilities include managing compliance projects, software, workflows, and minimizing risk for BCBS. Jason spent 13 years in Baltimore in the broadcasting industry and currently resides with his family in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

What was your favorite class at ComArtSci?

I definitely enjoyed my audio production class where we would do anything from take a muted episode of Star Trek and add our own dialogue and sound effects to even coming up with our own commercials for the airways.

What was your favorite study spot on campus?

I would go to the library. I particularly liked walking down by the Red Cedar around the fall or spring and picking a spot in front of the big windows.

What was your favorite thing to do around East Lansing?

Whether it was football games in front of Landon Hall or just riding bikes around, my friend group while I was there really liked hanging out. Just being on campus was a real highlight.

What’s your favorite MSU Memory?

My freshman year was the one-second MSU football victory over U of M and my roommate and I were front row in the student section right in the endzone with the winning catch happening 10 feet from us. Nothing captures the emotion and energy of being there as a student especially a freshman.

So, you earned your degree in telecommunication at ComArtSci, can you speak about how things have evolved in your industry since you graduated and where you foresee things going from here?

Looking at the evolution of when I left ComArtSci, everything used to be in its own bucket. You were studying audio production or advertising or video production. Nowadays I don’t think we are as defined as then. You have to learn to be more of a media skilled presence. Things have merged and you kind of need to be skilled in all of it. It’s all about evolving with the times and being nimble. Something that [ComArtSci] has been really good at.

What was your biggest lesson learned during your time at ComArtSci? And what was your biggest lesson after ComArtSci?

The biggest lesson coming out of ComArtSci is accountability for your own skill and taking an evolutionary step. Something that was taught to me was the question of ‘where is my ceiling?’ and ‘can I remove that ceiling?’ So, learning about yourself personally and understanding what it takes to be a professional and then what can I add to my portfolio and skillset to take me above and beyond. [ComArtSci] has so many good professors there that help show the options to students. 

To answer the second part of the question, I think we go out with our degrees and think we are a finished product. That’s not the case. You need to learn the in’s and the out’s and be prepared for some bumpy waters for the first few weeks and months as you learn the job.

Fast forward to the end of your career. It’s your retirement party and everyone is there celebrating your achievements. What do you hope people say about you?

You know the thing I have prided myself on in my personal and professional life is being a connector and being someone who can be trusted. I think I have done a pretty good job of that with the family, friends, connections, and colleagues I have built. No matter where I am, my hope is that I can be counted on and could build connections.

To those students who are confused, overwhelmed, not sure what they want to do, unsure about what a degree from ComArtSci can do for them, what would your message be to them?

I would think about what you’ve done with your time here and what you are proud of. It could be as simple as one project, one paper, one seminar and see if there is something deeper in those moments. Try to figure out where that spark is and see if you can locate it out in the real world.

By Joe Strother