Justin Smith, Oregon State MBA alum, films in the Red Sea as part of his job as multimedia production manager. 

As an undergraduate film student, Justin Smith developed his artistic abilities.

But he decided that for his career to really take off, he needed business expertise as well.

That’s what led him to the Oregon State MBA program.

Smith, multimedia production manager for OSU Interactive Communications, grew up in California’s Lake Tahoe region and matriculated at the University of Utah both to study film and to enjoy the snowboarding opportunities the area offers.

Graduating in 2002, he went to work in Los Angeles and came to realize he didn’t know enough about the economic aspects of the movie industry.

“Money is required to make any of this happen, and I knew I had a pretty big gap in my knowledge,” said Smith, who arrived in Corvallis in time for summer term 2008 to begin taking foundational classes in preparation for starting the MBA program in the fall.

“It was very intense,” said Smith, whose studies included an integrated business plan project for a radiation detection device. “The fact that you’re being treated as if you’re in the midst of a startup is really beneficial.”

Smith received a graduate assistantship with Interactive Communications, then known as OSU Web Communications, “and I kind of never left.” He finished his degree in 2010 and started that September as a full-time videographer.

At Interactive Communications, Smith is part of a seven-person creative team that helps support the university’s marketing efforts.

“Essentially what we are is a small business group within a larger group,” he said. “The MBA program helped me a lot. What we do is a form of internal entrepreneurship; we branch out from what we’re generally expected to do and explore a bit more of what we can do in line with what we’re expected to do.”

For example, Smith’s team is about a year into what figures to be a two- or three-year project: a documentary on efforts to research and rescue the planet’s declining coral reefs, “Saving Atlantis.” Footage has already been shot in such far-flung locales as the coastal waters of Saudi Arabia and Australia.

Through it all, Smith uses his MBA education to hone his artistic talents to their sharpest edge.

“Production work is about 90 percent coordination and 10 percent actually shooting stuff,” Smith said. “Sometimes when you’re shooting these documentaries, you’re an extra element of the project that’s not the most convenient, but everyone is glad you were there after the fact.”