Missouri State University

Hillary Huong Vu

Early dreams led animation student to her passion

Stephen Spielberg once said fantasy is an animator's friend. Hillary Huong Vu is living that vision at Missouri State.

Some years from now, you might see animation work by Missouri State senior Hillary Huong Vu at a summer blockbuster on the big screen. We’re talking computer-generated imagery (CGI) effects. Explosions. Stunning backgrounds. Those kinds of things.

“My plan in the future is to do visual effects for Hollywood movies,” she said. “I want to do effects like in Avatar.”

Big dreams, for sure, but the talented electronic arts/computer animation major has started to pursue them at Missouri State with building blocks in the art of moving pictures and promotions.

Vu edits video

The beginning of an animated journey

Vu’s story begins in her home country of Vietnam, where her artistic mindset started to surface at a young age. She liked to draw, but felt a calling to study in the United States in part because her aspirations did not fit cultural expectations from her homeland.

“I planned to be a doctor, because over there they really appreciate doctors and everybody wants to be a doctor,” she said. “But I didn’t really see myself as a doctor and wanted to go to the U.S. to study abroad.

“Before that, coincidentally I saw a Samsung Galaxy commercial video on YouTube, and I liked it. I told my mom and dad, ‘I want to do something like that.’”

“My plan in the future is to do visual effects for Hollywood movies. I want to do effects like in Avatar.”

That commercial played a pivotal role in Vu’s decision to pursue computer animation. In 2011, she traveled to and enrolled at Missouri State, a decision that was made easier because her brother had lived in Springfield for several years. She was undeclared until she attended an academic majors fair and interacted with faculty.

She was interested in filming, but when she showed that Galaxy commercial to faculty members, they directed her to the electronic arts animation program. “I was like, yeah, I think this is the one I like,” she said.

A new venture with a Missouri State theme

Vu’s animation work was especially noticed in 2015 when art and design professor Vonda Yarberry distributed a Missouri State-themed animation project Vu developed that spring and summer. The low-poly animation (on which edges and shades of shapes are highly visible) featured a variety of well-known MSU structures such as Carrington Hall, Meyer Library and the Foster Recreation Center.

Campus animation

Yarberry supported Vu during the project and encouraged her to improve it, an effort that did not go unnoticed by a student who has big aspirations.

“I need to practice more, and in this program, I practice every day,” Vu said. “Every day you get new skills and new features.

“I’m one of three international students in that program. It’s good that it’s small because I can interact with classmates and professors. I really appreciate Vonda because she takes care of me.”