Interview with Nate HOWE ‘01

HMS alum and Emmy Award-winning branding specialist will deliver the 75th Commencement Address

On June 10, HMS alum Nate HOWE ’01 will deliver the Commencement Address to the 33 graduating seniors. As the Class of 2017 begins the next chapter in their life, Nate will share advice and experiences from his own life. In 2011, Nate won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Promotional Announcement for his work on the advertising campaign for the National Geographic Series “Everyday Explorers.” In 2012 Nate started his own creative studio and his experiences range from product launches and rebrandings to commercial advertising and work in TV and film. He has collaborated with Nike, Disney, HBO, ESPN, and other high-profile companies.

HMS: When you graduated from High Mowing in 2001, did you ever think you would ever be back to give a commencement address some day? 
Nate HOWE ’01: I never really thought about it back then, but it was such a wonderful surprise to get that phone call from Cary Hughes, and I knew I had to do it just because it’s something that I know I’ll look back on it and be grateful that I was part of it. It’s such a great honor for me.

Can you describe to us what you do? 
It can be hard to describe what we do, but the real heart of it revolves around entertainment and marketing. If a client needs to promote something, if they need to get somebody to watch their show, if they need to get somebody to buy their product, we help with all of that. The work is so varied, from logo development and television promos to 3D and virtual reality animations, but the aim of it is always to communicate a message to people in a visually striking way, to finding the beauty in something and show it to consumers.

Was there a moment when you knew this type of work was your passion, when you knew that this was your trajectory in life? 
I realized it was a passion very young. I started playing around with Photoshop when I was about nine years old, and then some of the 3D software when I was 11. What I loved about animation was the amount of freedom to be creative, that I could just allow my imagination to be fluid and not be bound by reality. At High Mowing I was always running around campus with my camera, making little projects and trying new techniques.

How did you end up at High Mowing? 
I went to a rural grade school in Ohio. When I was in fifth grade I told the the art teacher that I was curious about doing something more serious with art and that I really loved it, and right off the cuff she told me that there was no real future in art, and that there was no real way to make it — that art is a fun hobby and a nice break from classes, but that I should focus on more important things.

Nate Howe is a gradate of High Mowing School and Full Sail University

In seventh grade, my Dad pulled me out of that school and he and my grandparents, despite their busy schedules, drove me an hour away to a school in Akron, which was the Spring Garden Waldorf School. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I fell in love with how Waldorf education nurtured individuals instead of treating them as numbers.

When it was time for high school, I knew I couldn’t go back to the local public school. My dad found High Mowing on the internet and we went and visited. The second I saw High Mowing I knew I wanted to be there, and I never looked anywhere else.

What are some of your fondest memories of your time at High Mowing? Some of my most amazing experiences were the Projects Blocks. The ability to travel all over the world for a week and learn something different was so amazing for me — one of my favorites was when I went to Belize and studied Marine Biology. Each trip gave a little taste of a potential life or a new path.

The Coffee Houses really stand out to me, with all the creativity and humor and excitement of the evening.

And of course the beauty and the magic of the school and the campus is also something that stands out in my memory. Everything about that environment and that space just fosters the right vibe for creativity and community.

In the HMS Yearbook from your senior year, you dedicated your personal page to your father. Can you tell us about his influence in your life? 
He really taught me to always stay positive, that anything is within reach and to never be ashamed to have a big dream and to be successful — but also to break the dream down into common sense steps.

Was Full Sail University a natural continuation of High Mowing? 
Yes, definitely. In the public school I was at as a kid, you were laughed at by students and teachers if you had a dream. But in Waldorf schools the teachers encourage dreaming and Full Sail University was founded by a dreamer. I was looking at Emerson and NYU, but when I walked into Full Sail they had a sign on the wall that said “We Take Your Dreams Seriously,” and that resonated with me.

After Nate graduated from High Mowing, he attended Full Sail University in Florida. He graduated with a degree in Computer Animation. Nate was inducted into the Full Sail Hall of Fame in 2015. Watch Full Sail’s video about Nate below.

Through your experiences at High Mowing and Full Sail University, do you see alternatives to mainstream approach education? 
Yes. I don’t have it all figured out, but what’s clear to me is that you need to give students a chance to fall in love with something, to get curious, and not to surround that passion with pressure to perform or a need to justify it with a paycheck.

What creative potential do you see in new platforms like virtual reality?
What usually happens when there’s a technological breakthrough or new virtual platform is a rush to use it for the sake of using it. The people who cut through and use the change to make a difference are the people who go back to the fundamentals of storytelling and human emotion and how to connect a community. When you can understand the technology but are not driven only by the sake of using the technology but instead driven by the emotion and heart of what you’re trying to create, that’s how you use technology to reach people.

What can recent college graduates do to better position themselves for success in artistic and creative fields? 
Find what you’re passionate about and what you’re good at it, to find your spark. My father used to call it “listening to the whispers,” to feel those inner nudges and voices, to be self-aware and listen to those whispers, those gut instincts, and then act on them with confidence.

When you’re going for a job, you need to make an impression that cuts through the noise and shows why you’d be great in that position — and that’s a lot easier when you love what you will be doing. Also, it’s important to learn to interview well, to speak about yourself well, and to care about the person who might be hiring you. Most people go into job interviews and try to prove their self-worth, but an easy way for you to stand out is to care about the mission of the company. And again, that will be authentic if you love what you will be doing in that job.

What advice would you give artists when they’re feeling stuck or uninspired? 
If you’re ever fighting a block — writer’s block, creative block, feeling stuck in general — take a step back and try to find a way to get lost in the beauty of what you’re doing. Fear is the enemy of creativity, especially when fear is the inner voice that shuts something down before it can even blossom. So listening to your gut and trusting your gut through the fear is important.

Is there any advice you can give to the seniors as they prepare to graduate? 
Yes: going forward, you don’t have to be defined by who you’ve been in high school, maybe you have dreams you haven’t told anyone. Spend time with yourself and throw down any limitations you have in your mind. Start to dream bigger, and start paying attention to all the ideas when they’re just whispers.

One of the main things I’ll talk about at Graduation is how to keep the magic and the love and the creativity of the High Mowing community in your heart during this time of change and growth.