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BTGF is presented by and in collaboration with the following:

    Panel #6 – Sunday, Oct. 7, 1:30pm - 3:00pm      

Teaching + Mentoring: Strategies for Positive Change in Academia

Faculty from USC, CalArts, UCLA, Woodbury University, Cal State Long Beach, and Loyola Marymount University discuss their strategies for positive change in education, and how to assist students in navigating the industry after graduation.

Moderator: Maija Burnett, Director of the CalArts Character Animation Program.

Maija Burnett is the Director of the Character Animation Program at CalArts in Valencia, California, where she administers the program, teaches, mentors students, and runs a weekly guest speakers’ series. Burnett served as a Board Member for the GLAS Animation Festival in Berkeley, CA, and is currently a member of its Advisory Committee. She represents CalArts at various international events, and has been a jury member for numerous animation festivals.

Soyeon Kim, Faculty at CalArts and California State Long Beach

Soyeon Kim is a Korean born filmmaker, illustrator, and educator. 

While studying painting at college she developed an interest in moving images, which led her to the world of animation and media arts. She moved to the United States to pursue further studies in filmmaking and received an M.F.A in Animation from the California Institute of the Arts in 2001. She often combines her backgrounds in both painting and filmmaking to explore themes of nature, breaking down realism into minimal abstract shapes, patterns, textures, and colors to build unique visual worlds filled with metaphor and symbolism.


Soyeon has been producing independent films since 1993, as well as working on projects in advertising and film production as a director, art director, designer, and animator. Her independent films and commissioned works have been showcased in film festivals worldwide, aired on broadcast television, displayed in the museums and galleries, and have won prestigious awards. She runs her own design and animation studio ‘Yellowshed’ with her partner Todd Hemker, while teaching filmmaking at the California Institute of the Arts and California State University Long Beach. 

Dori Littell-Herrick, Professor Emerita, Woodbury University

Dori Littell-Herrick spent 28 years in the animation industry as an artist, production supervisor, assistant director and creative executive. As an animation artist, her credits include Ferngully the Last Rainforest (Kroyer Films), National Lampoon Christmas Vacation title animation (Kroyer Films), The Little Mermaid (Disney Studios) and various commercials including Trix Rabbit, Keebler Elves, Tony the Tiger, Dig’m the Frog, Raid Bugs and Snap, Crackle and Pop. As a production supervisor, Dori worked on Osmosis Jones and Quest for Camelot (WB); and Beavis and Butthead and Ren and Stimpy (Metrolight Studios). She continued to work as an assistant director on animated commercials featuring Disney classic characters including Winnie the Pooh and the Seven Dwarves (Simex Studios, Pepper Films). As a producer in development at Warner Bros Feature Animation, Dori managed the creative development of feature films and short projects.

Dori returned to UCLA Animation Workshop to earn her Masters of Fine Arts in 2004. She joined the faculty at Woodbury University in 2005 as Chair of Animation. She taught the team-based animation production class, Junior Studio, as well as Animation Principles. Dori retired in 2017 after twelve years at Woodbury and continues teaches part time.

Dori joined the ASIFA-Hollywood Board in 2011 and serves on the Finance Committee. She is also a founding member of the ASIFA- Hollywood Animation Educators Forum, and chairs the Scholarship Committee which distributes scholarships to animation students around the world. Dori is committed sharing the art and craft of animation with the next generation.

Celia Mercer, Professor, Area Head, UCLA Animation Workshop, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

Celia L. Mercer studied art at San Francisco State University (BA 1982) and received her MFA in film from UCLA in 1990. She has worked professionally in animated features, television graphics, and art direction/interface design for the interactive industry. Mercer’s award-winning animated films have screened internationally.


In 1996, she returned to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television as the second Senate Faculty member in Animation. In 2007, Professor Mercer became Area Head of the UCLA Animation Workshop.  


In her work, the artist and filmmaker uses juxtaposition of found image, letters, words, pattern and texture to present the familiar – the everyday - in unexpected ways.  Mercer works in both film and painting, primarily with the medium of encaustic paint combined with collage. Encaustic (“to burn”), one of the most ancient of art forms, is a hot-wax technique in which a pigmented compound of beeswax and resin is melted, hardened, and fused – layer upon layer – until the desired effect is attained. Mercer creates complex, multi-layered effects with encaustic – underscoring the feeling of mystery and depth in some work; encasing and memorializing in others.

Christine Panushka, Full Professor, John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts, USC

Christine Panushka is an internationally known award-wining artist, filmmaker/animator and educator. Panushka has curated animation programs, juried film festivals and served on the selection committees for the Hiroshima Animation Festival, Glas Animation Festival and the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Her films have won numerous awards including the Grand Prize at the Aspen Filmfest and a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival.”  Named an Absolut Visionary in 1996, Panushka conceptualized, directed and curated “Absolut Panushka,” The second issue in a series of content-based web sites sponsored by Absolut Vodka. 


Currently, Panushka a Full Professor in the John Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California.

Kathy Smith, Associate Professor, John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts, USC

Kathy is Associate Professor at the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts, where she chaired the Division from Fall 2004 to Spring 2009 and from Fall 2010 until Fall 2014 establishing the BA in animation and digital arts, creating the semester abroad with SACI College of Art & Design, Florence, Italy and establishing the research collaboration with the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies in 2004.

Kathy was Co-Chair of REDEFINING ANIMATION The 25th Annual Conference of the Society for Animation Studies hosted at the School of Cinematic Arts, USC 2013.

Kathy teaches Expanded Animation, Master’s Thesis and irregularly Animation Seminar and Contemporary Topics in Animation & Digital Art


Her teaching focuses on expanded animation practice and animation as consciousness.