Polk County student finds career in Central Florida’s Creative Industry following studies at Polk State College and Southeastern University and service in the Marine Corps.

Alan Langdale thought he had his life planned out after he graduated from Mulberry High School in 2008. He enrolled at Tallahassee Community College, where he expected to earn a degree, then complete the requirements to enter the Marine Corps as an officer.

But college life got in the way.

“I was used to relatively small class sizes with teachers who cared about their students,” Langdale said. He attended Sikes Elementary, Union Academy and Mulberry High School, earning As and Bs throughout.

“So I thought I was fully prepared to enter college and take college-level classes. When I enrolled in TCC in 2008 I got a rude awakening.”

Langdale says large class sizes and professors who didn’t seem to care about their students were the norm. “This shock caused me to end up dropping most of my classes, and of those that I kept, I finished with low Bs and Cs. This led to a change of plans.”

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2009, instead of entering as an officer.

“Looking back, I would have had it no other way,” said Langdale, now 29.

After serving in the Marine Corps for four years, Langdale returned to Polk County, where he enrolled at Polk State College and earned an Associate of Arts degree in 2017. He later went on to Southeastern University and earn a Bachelor of Science in graphic design in 2019.

Langdale said he would like to stay in Polk County, where the creative industry is thriving, especially in Lakeland.

“The creative industries are a major contributor to our economy and serve as not only an attractor of creative professionals to Polk County, but retaining talent,” said Craig Collins, dean of the College of Arts & Media at Southeastern University.

“Creative professionals — and the creative industries as a whole — are the primary drivers behind innovation, clear communication and corporate messaging, and a host of other indirect benefits that are inherent to the types of outside-the-box thinkers who operate within the creative industries.”

As a creative type, Langdale said he is glad that the school system has developed magnet programs like the Rochelle School of the Arts and Harrison School for the Arts, both in Lakeland. Rochelle teaches students through eighth grade, at which point they can apply to Harrison for high school. Davenport School of the Arts serves East Polk County.

“It’s really important to recognize the importance of how the arts, and specifically an arts education, contribute to not only the quality of life in a community but also the payoff in an investment in the creative economy,” said Daryl Ward, principal of Harrison School for the Arts.

“From problem-solving skills to non-linear thinking, an intentional focus on the creative industries can make Polk County a desirable place to both live and work.”

Langdale joins about 3,000 creative types who work in Polk County as graphic artists, filmmakers and more. He’s been working for six years as a graphic designer but would like a new challenge.

“I would like to move into the marketing industry for new challenges and experiences that will further my career as a graphic designer,” he said.