Alumni careers amaze students at mass communication event

JOLIET, Ill. — University of St. Francis students and students from local high schools were amazed by the experiences of two award-winning USF alumni during a special event last month.

Carey Villegas, a 1993 graduate and Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor for Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and Patrick Keating, a 1994 graduate and an award-winning photographer with WLS-TV Chicago, gave students an inside look to the broadcasting and film industries during a special Mass Communication Visit Day on Jan. 28.

Keating shared the ups and downs of his job in the broadcasting industry, describing his career as “not always easy.” He worked his way up from an intern at CNN Sports to his current position at WLS TV. He credited USF for providing him with a liberal education that got him through the bumps in the road. “St. Francis is one of the few schools that really teach you liberally,” Keating said. “Many schools cost a lot more and don’t teach you much outside your chosen career.”

One of the students in attendance asked Keating about the most rewarding part of his job. “Knowing that I’ve done everything I could do to tell a story right,” he said, conveying to students that you need passion to enjoy your career.

Villegas’ passion took him all the way to Los Angeles and on Feb. 27 to the 83rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony. Villegas talked about how important a liberal education is in today’s workforce but he also expressed to students how important following your passion is. “I choose St. Francis because smaller universities give more hands-on opportunities, which helps hone in on the skills needed to follow your dreams,” he said.

His presentation went into detail about his work on “Alice in Wonderland” and the challenges the visual effect team faced while creating the film. He worked on more than 1,700 shots for the film. Villegas also wanted students to understand that working in the film is not as glamorous as they might think. “There is lots of work involved and you have to be patient,” he said.

Audience questions for Villegas ranged from how long it takes to create a movie to who his favorite director was to work with. He’s worked on many major Hollywood blockbusters, including “Titanic,” “Cast Away” and “Spider Man 3.”

“I enjoyed working with Tim Burton,” Villegas said. “He’s a collaborator, he wants your opinion.”

The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering 40 undergraduate programs, four degree-completion programs and 14 graduate programs, including a doctorate in nursing practice. Programs are offered in arts and science, business, education, nursing and health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit