After graduating from SIUE, many alumi found themselves working for the same organization, MindsEye, using the skills they learned in college.
MindsEye is a St. Louis organization that serves the hearing and visually impaired by providing audio description and translating print to audio.
Jason Frazier, president and CEO of MindsEye, said he started working at MindsEye as a part-time board operator after he graduated from SIUE, and quickly became motivated by their services.
“I do have a personal connection. My grandmother was visually impaired, so whenever I first started working here as a part-time board operator, I was inspired by the mission and just realized this is a service she could have utilized, and we didn’t know about,” Frazier said.
While working part-time at MindsEye, Frazier also worked part-time for ESPN. Although Frazier said he originally wanted to work in sports media, he became more involved with MindsEye after seeing the organization’s impact.
“I began to realize the impact of what we were doing. So community outreach became my next job there, then I became Development Director and then two years ago in 2018, after our previous presidency left, I was moved to the position of interim presidency, and then finally, two months later I was the full-time president and CEO of MindsEye,” Frazier said.
As an SIUE alumnus, Frazier said getting involved in extracurricular activities such as WSIE, the campus radio station, helped him to learn skills he now uses in his career.
“I took advantage of a lot of the extracurricular activities, but that kind of taught me about real-life work experience, about being on time — the soft skills — and that kind of helped me with that portion of my career,” Frazier said.
Frazier also said his classroom experience as a mass communications student gave him the necessary tools for the field.
“Most people in mass comm will tell you writing is key, so learning how to write will get you into a lot of doors. I still use that now with development stuff or sending out appeal letters or things like that,” Frazier said.
While at SIUE, Frazier worked for The Alestle, which he said helped him to make connections such as Greg Conroy, former director of public affairs, who Frazier later recruited as a volunteer.
“The very first time I met Greg, I was doing a story for The Alestle and he was there doing PR, and it was about the … library ... and now he’s volunteering at MindsEye. He’s been doing it for three years now, because when he retired, I said, ‘I would love to have you come in the building one day,’ and he finally took me up on my offer,” Frazier said. “And he’s been doing great work ever since.”
Angela Banks, chief operating officer of MindsEye, graduated from SIUE as a business administration major with an emphasis in Human Resources. Banks became involved with MindsEye by volunteering as a substitute reader, and later became a staff member in the Beepball program and did audio description training. Banks said it took some time for her to see how her degree helped her become successful.
“You make a decision when you’re young, ‘oh, I’ll study this,’ and then your career takes a 180. It eventually circled back around. I’m grateful for that experience and for that education at SIUE,” Banks said.
MindsEye offers three major programs — broadcast information, audio description and Beepball — as well as an arts and culture accessibility cooperative. Mike Curtis, director of special initiatives, manages the Beepball program and works with technology for audio description.
“In a lot of situations, Magan [Harms], our Arts and Cultural coordinator, will do [audio descriptions] at live theater, so at the [St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre] … Repertory Theater and a few other theaters around the St. Louis area. So we’ll audio describe those events. We’ve audio described a lot of things at Enterprise [Center],” Curtis said.
Beepball is a form of baseball in which a beeping ball is used. Most players are visually impaired, and everyone wears a blindfold regardless of visual ability, except a few spotters and the pitcher, who tells the batter when to swing. The batter must make it to one of the bases, which are four feet tall and have speakers, before the fielders find the beeping ball. For players who have lost their vision, this is a chance to play baseball again.
“We use Beepball as a fundraiser, but until 2018 we committed it to be a program of MindsEye rather than just a fundraiser. So even though the fundraiser goes to support our mission and everything else we do, we also use it as a learning piece … we’ll go into schools and universities and events around the St. Louis area and do random demonstrations at certain events just to spread awareness about Beepball and sports for people with visual impairments,” Curtis said.
Tom Williams, broadcast director at MindsEye and an SIUE alumnus, maintains broadcast equipment, manages volunteers when they do recordings and programs the radio station.
“The majority of folks that use our service are people who have lost their vision later in life, so they know what blue and green are. They just may not be able to see that anymore, so being able to provide that to those people is still massively important. Being able to get things out there that are a visual medium to people who no longer have that ability and still make it translate well is a big deal,” Williams said.
Visit MindsEye's website to learn more about their programs.