Get to Know Diccon Conant
As Senior Academic advisor, Diccon Conant sees his roles as a "student’s teammate and expert guide" as they find their path to a career in the arts.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Mar 8, 2022
As a Senior Academic advisor in the College of Arts & Media (CAM), Diccon Conant has helped many, many students through the process of obtaining their degrees. Originally from Minnesota, Conant has lived in Rhode Island, Washington, Ohio, and (for a year) Italy. He also has a diverse list of work experiences—postal sorter, assistant librarian, and college recruiter—on his resume, in addition to academic advising. Drawn by the city and the Rocky Mountains, Conant moved to Denver to pursue professional opportunities with his wife, now a professor at the University of Denver. An aspiring acoustic guitarist himself, Conant appreciates the passion the students and faculty bring to the arts. One of Conant's hobbies is archery, which, “like the arts, involves both creativity and technical know-how,” he says. When he’s not working tirelessly to help students, Conant likes to listen to a cappella groups Lark and Home Free, or Finnish metal band, Nightwish.
- You have over 20 years experience as an advisor in higher education. Over this time, have you discovered that there is there something every student needs from an advisor—no matter what that student’s background or course of study?
I believe that students need to know that in their academic advisor they have a reliable and friendly resource, someone who is truly interested in helping them find ways to make the most of their undergraduate experience. There are a wide range of options and opportunities in college, so many that it can be nearly impossible to keep track of them all. An advisor can serve as a student’s teammate and expert guide as they explore the possibilities together, and as they gather information and insights needed to help the student make decisions and plan their path.
- What have you been surprised to learn from a student (or students) during your time in CAM?
I am continually surprised and impressed with the high level of work that CAM students produce. Over the years I have admired (and sometimes purchased!) art created by students I have advised. I have loaded their music onto my phone, posted their paintings on my wall, visited exhibitions, concerts, and film showings, and even worn a t-shirt that a student designed. As someone who works in an office and spends a lot of time looking at files and databases, it is great when my students remind me of—and help me to experience—their amazing talents and creativity.
- How is advising students working toward artistic degrees different from advising other students?
CAM students are usually very focused on their majors and almost universally passionate about their creative work. For most of them, their artistic goals are an intrinsic part of who they are and how they want to live their lives. When we discuss planning, we often discuss not only how to sequence their courses to build skills and understanding, but also how to allow time for artistic development outside of the classroom, whether it be producing music, creating visual art, or working on a film.
- What would you say to the artist who is not sure whether earning a degree would help their career?
A degree in the arts not only provides a structured opportunity to grow artistic skills and experiences, but also to enter an existing network of creators and ideas. Students develop connections and collaborative ventures with their peers and faculty that can extend outside the classroom and beyond graduation. And university career and life design advising, as well as course work on the business and entrepreneurial side of the industry, can help students build and refine plans to promote and monetize their work in the in long term—to find ways to live a fulfilling artistic life.
- You have experience working with less privileged, under-represented, and first-generation college students. What hopes do you have for the system of higher education in the United States becoming more equitable?
My greatest hope is that more resources will be made available to provide financial support for students who need it—with an emphasis on scholarships, grants, and work study, while reducing the need for loans and debt. I hope that more students can have the ability not only to pay tuition and fees, but also to work less so that they can make the most of their college experience—whether they are attending part-time or full-time—while meeting other life obligations. In addition, I hope that universities can continue to grow programs and resources to give all students the support they need to succeed, and to create a sense of community and belonging for students from a wide range of backgrounds. I value resources at CU Denver like the Learning Resources Center, the Center for Identity and Inclusion, and the LGBTQ+ Student Resource Center, among others. When I went to college, it felt like a home away from home—a place where I had the personal confidence and security to explore and take the risks needed to grow as a student and person. I was fortunate enough to have the resources to support this experience; I wish a similar experience for all students.