Office of Alumni Engagement

Peter Johnston

My hometown when I was a student was:

Alma, MI - some call us townies, but I prefer hometown heroes.

I graduated from Alma in:


I studied:

Art and Design, focusing in Photography

I currently live in:

Okemos, MI

I am now:

Film production manager for the Film Studies program and video producer for the College of Arts and Letters marketing team, both at Michigan State University.

Since graduating from Alma:

I moved to Chicago to work in the photography industry before coming back to MSU for my Masters degree. I’ve been at MSU ever since, making my own fiction and documentary films while also producing my professional work and teaching production classes. My brother’s (Joe Johnston, Theater ’97) and my recent short documentary short Ka-dy Comes Home premiered at the Freep Film Festival at the Detroit Institute of Arts in April.

My Alma education:

introduced me to different eras in art history, different media for artistic expression, and the connections between art and sociology, history, philosophy, and more. It inspired a curiosity in me, and an ability to solve complex problems. 

My favorite place(s) on campus included:

The Theta Chi house (RIP!), 1st North Bruske, Clack Art Center, and the disc golf course. And Saga, of course. 

My favorite professor(s) included:

Sandy Lopez-Isnardi, Bob Rozier and Carrie Parks-Kirby in Art were all fabulous. I also loved Murray Borello, Mike Vickery, Ardella Crawford, Bill Palmer and George Choksy. 

My most vivid/best memory of my time at Alma is:

Most vivid and best are probably very different! My most vivid memory was probably the week I had my BFA application due and was taking 3 art studios at once—lots of very late nights and early mornings working! I had my time planned out almost to the minute. But my best memories involve the epic open mic nights we would throw at Theta Chi, or the massive open video game arcade we set up as a social event.  

How Alma has helped with my current plan/job/graduate school/etc.:

Alma fosters independent thinking. If I had jumped to studying film at a more focused school, I would have learned a lot of technical details about cameras and lighting and missed out on the larger picture—storytelling. My Alma education gave me a much more valuable, well-rounded education. I truly think my storytelling skills were forged in my classes in geography, art history, sociology, creative writing, and philosophy as much as they were in my art courses, as I built the connections of the human experience across those disciplines.

Advice I would give a new graduate:

You truly do get out of your education what you put in, so don’t just do the minimum or take the easiest class in each requirement. I took an easy government class to fulfill a requirement and regret not dedicating that time to something more challenging. Go outside your comfort level and rise to the occasion. And don’t worry so much about grades; of course you want to do your best, but the important thing is really challenging yourself with the material. My college grades have never come up after graduation, but the impact of my education certainly has—that is what’s important and I’m glad I didn’t stress too much over the difference between a B and an AB.