Marketing executive and alumnus Richard Bourque draws inspiration for his creative process from his Art History degree, strong work ethic, and desire to make positive progress in the world.
You have had a highly successful career in marketing, spanning the areas of art, fashion, music, business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), and, most recently, in education, first as vice president at Scholastic, and currently, chief marketing officer at Educational Epiphany.
What aspects of your professional life are you most proud of and why?
I am most proud of the fact that I created my own path and focused on the things that made me happy – which at many points in my journey felt challenging in many, many ways. However, I was willing to make that decision, work as hard as I could, and stay positive. I did not want to take traditional business classes; I loved to write and be creative, and I loved being in New York City. I was, and still am, passionate about art, architecture, food, photography, anything that involves the creative process.
As for my work in education, it’s the perfect industry for me because I can feed my passion for helping people and doing something that I know has a positive impact on society and the world at large. When I visit schools in 40+ states and internationally, I always leave feeling inspired and more knowledgeable about how we can help progress happen.
Is equity in education something you are passionate about?
Absolutely! Equity and access are critical to helping students become the thought leaders and innovators of tomorrow. If we do not provide access to ALL students – regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, zip code, or learning ability – then we are not doing our jobs as educators. Kids can do anything if we show them what’s possible and no matter what challenges they face. We can help just by providing them access.
You received a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Pace University. What attracted you to pursue this course of study and how did you get started in your career?
I love art and I love to read. I also discovered a profound sense of inspiration from the energy associated with what art and artists bring to the world; there’s a sense of urgency, beauty, and excitement. Plus, being in New York, I would spend hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art reading and learning. Whatever it is that excites you, you should do whatever you have to do to follow it and be closer to it!
Through Career Services at Pace, I obtained an internship at a famous gallery in SoHo named Artists Space. Through that internship, I met the team at Interview magazine. (Back in those pre-internet days, I always had a copy of my resume in my backpack. I would walk the streets of SoHo and drop it off in as many places as would let me). I got an interview – at Interview – and never looked back.
In your view, what meaning does the study of art of the past have to society?
Wow, this is a great question! In my opinion, the impact of the history of art is far and wide. It reaches every corner of the world and in every society. Artists have shaped many of the buildings we work and live in, created the vehicles and transportation systems we use, and have covered the sides and walls of the buildings we work and live in. So, the art of the past has a profound impact and influence on how we all live today.
That willingness to try, that willingness to work hard, to discover new things and put yourself out there, that’s what drives people like me, like us.
How has a degree in Art History prepared you for your career in marketing? Do you have any thoughts about the value of a liberal arts education?
Marketing is about learning. If you are not learning, you are not relevant in the marketing field. You must stay ahead of your customers and understand them and their buying patterns. My degree in Art History provided me with a different way of approaching situations and challenges at work. I was always able to come up with a good idea to support a sales team, to write messaging for a campaign, and to approach data in a unique way. This helped me stand out and get the attention of my managers over time.
I believe a liberal arts education has so much value when it comes to thinking outside of the box and solving problems in your career. Oftentimes in business, at least in my experience, there is often a need for a creative solution to a problem. If you can do this, and learn how to be proactive and hardworking, you can be successful.
Why did you choose to enroll at Pace University on the New York City campus?
I really wanted to be in New York, and I wanted to be at a school where I knew my classes would be smaller. I also liked the option of being in Pleasantville and/or the New York City campus.
Were there certain faculty who were instrumental in your academic and/or professional journey?
Professor Lisa Farber for sure. She is the person who influenced me the most, who pushed me to do my best, and who encouraged me to think differently. She taught about the value of hard work and how to navigate some of the challenges associated with being in a big city and entering such competitive fields as art and publishing.
College is a momentous time in a person’s life. As you look back at your time as a Dyson student, how did it influence you to become the person you are today?
My time at Dyson had a profound impact on my life. I met so many amazing friends and people, made connections, and learned so much from my professors. Being in the city is hard when you are 20 years old. I had three jobs and went to school like many of my friends. However, that willingness to try, that willingness to work hard, to discover new things and put yourself out there, that is what drives people like me, like us. We all had goals, and we did everything we could together as a group to achieve them.
What challenges, if any, have you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
I face challenges in life and in work just like everyone does. I had folks around me with MBAs and business degrees that did not take me seriously many times, and I had to work hard to gain their respect. I got turned down for a lot of marketing jobs, but that just made me be more grateful and focus on whatever jobs I did get. I learned about the teams in cross-functional departments, I went out of my way to build relationships with internal and external partners, and I knew how lucky I was to get these opportunities, so I did not take them for granted. You are always going to have people that talk about you, that judge you for whatever reason; but if you remain focused on what really matters and focused on your goals and what is good for you and your family, then good things will come.
What advice would you give to our students, as they navigate their college life?
Do you! I know this sounds cliché, but I am telling you there is a place for you – for all of us – in this world, and you are unique and talented in your own way. Make friends, network, put yourself out there, and stay focused. Work as hard and as smart as you know how. And step out of your comfort zone; that’s when the magic happens, when you meet new people, discover, and learn new perspectives, and you will find that “thing” or that “idea” that will shape your bright future! You got this!