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Aurelio Soto ’23

Posted in: Alumni Spotlight

Aurelio Soto on Bloomfield College campus.

Presidential Scholar and 2-D Animation graduate, Aurelio Soto ’23, says Bloomfield College’s TRIO Student Support Services program was central to him gaining the job-ready skills he applies in his workplace today.

“Through TRIO, I was introduced to so many opportunities that helped me to grow,” says Soto. “I remember I was nervous and didn’t know anyone on campus, but I quickly got into my comfort zone. My TRIO coach was really helpful. TRIO helped me improve my writing skills, develop my resume and connected me with internships as early as my first year.”

The federally funded TRIO academic program united Soto early on with a selective Latino Fellowship Program. He received a summer stipend and attended with students from other universities. “I gained confidence and improved my communication skills through the program’s activities,” he says. As part of the experience, Soto visited the UPS corporate office, Bloomberg, Princeton University, the College of New Jersey and Rider University, where he participated in skill-building workshops intended to develop the student attendees as leaders.

Then the pandemic began during Soto’s sophomore year, and his campus experience became remote. But, when the College was once again open for in-person classes, Soto worked on his artistic craft on campus taking photos for the College’s Cyrus H. Holley Professor of Applied Ethics speaking series. It was at this time that he also began an internship with Inkululeko, an organization founded by Bloomfield College Instructor of Media Communications Jason Torreano, that serves motivated South African township youth in finishing high school and moving onto university studies.

“Working with Professor Torreano was always a great experience,” says Soto. “He allowed me to create and have my own ideas. He became a great friend and mentor, and helped me develop my skills further.” Soto was very excited when his role in Inkululeko was featured on Channel 7, the ABC Affiliate in Buffalo, New York. The story highlighted his collaboration with Inkululeko through COVID-19 to offer remote tutoring options for learners.

During his senior year, Soto joined his mentor as part of an international team working to create an innovative virtual study abroad program between Bloomfield College and the town of Makhanda in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. There, Soto conducted interviews and shot video using a 360-degree camera at more than a dozen locations. The final product leveraged virtual reality, mobile technology, an Oculus and similar devices to create 360-degree video tours that were later woven into existing Bloomfield College coursework, taking a traditional virtual study abroad program to the next level. His trip was facilitated through faculty development funding and the College’s Changing Lives Internship program.

“In those two weeks I spent in Makhanda, I gained further skills in leadership, communications and working as a team,” says Soto. “I learned about the culture of South Africa, acquired more knowledge from my professor and his colleagues from overseas, gained experience managing a team of a dozen tutors from around the United States, and helped to build an online tutoring library. I was even invited to teach a lesson on the history of animation to a class of high school students who were very engaged.”

Soto says that the distinctive learning experiences he enjoyed while at Bloomfield helped him land a position at Princeton University upon graduation, working in its Africa World Initiative, a hub for Africa-related research, programming and international scholarly networks. In the position, Soto manages social media, edits the organization’s website, designs event posters and edits videos.

“Since I was familiar with Princeton University from my earlier internship, I looked on their job site, saw the position and applied,” he says. “I was offered a position as program assistant in their new unit that engages with African studies internationally and enables partnerships that don’t yet exist,” says Soto, who was born in Peru, grew up in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and currently lives in South Brunswick, only 15 minutes from Princeton.

“My South Africa trip as a student at Bloomfield set the course for my life immediately after graduation,” says Soto. “If I were to advise current students, I would encourage them to join programs and seek opportunities because the experiences they will gain will help them grow and add job skills to their resumes to help them stand out. That’s what my entire experience at Bloomfield has been from the first day I stepped on campus. I was immediately inspired by the people there, and I am so grateful.”