Graduating summa cum laude is a massive honor for any college student, but for Artel J. Great, that was just the beginning of his success story.
Great has made history at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), by becoming the first Black valedictorian of the university’s School of Theater, Film and Television.
During his interview with BlackEnterprise.com, Great revealed that he didn’t even set out to become the school’s valedictorian. He simply wanted to do his best.
“The funny thing is I never set out to be valedictorian,” he said. “I was just determined to do my best and work to the highest of my ability.”
He also added that although he appreciates the awards and honors, they are still not the most important things to him.
“I focus on doing my work,” he said. “Making a positive contribution, that’s what I think about. What can I give of myself to make a contribution to our culture? If I’m blessed to win more awards I’d be grateful to accept them in the spirit of the ancestors who sacrificed so much for me to even have an opportunity.”
In addition to making history with his performance in the classroom, Great also has made incredible strides outside of his studies.
Great was the 2014 recipient of the Cinema Research Institute Fellowship for Innovation, BlackEnterprise.com reports.
“The CRI fellowship means that executives in a film think-tank believe my ideas are cutting-edge and promising enough to nurture,” he told BlackEnterprise.com. “It also means that I have financial support for one year to test an innovative model in the market, which will help procure long-term funding to secure the company’s growth.”
The recent graduate is also quite the emerging entrepreneur.
He is the founder of Project Catalyst and has recently launched the Project Catalyst App.
According to BlackEnterprise.com, Project Catalyst is a transmedia organization that combines creative community-building practices with cinema, visual art, music and technology.
Great is currently touring major cities in the U.S. to continue promoting the app’s launch.
“We’ve successfully organized live events and presentations in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles to introduce our new film and music app to the world,” he told BlackEnterprise.com. “We now have users in 11 countries across Europe, Asia, North and South America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.”
Great explained that the app “offers a progressive voice to multicultural communities with fresh, insightful entertainment that empowers and illuminates.”
Great plans to finish his Ph.D. at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and said that finishing his Ph.D. will be done in honor of his two role models – Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“They inspired me to earn my doctorate – that will be my greatest achievement,” he said.
It is no surprise that Great named these two historical figures as his role models.
The self-proclaimed historian said it is a “deep sense of responsibility” that drives him to work as hard as he does.
“I understand the sacrifice of so many dynamic figures in our culture that gave so much for us to have a chance,” Great said.