Design Alums return to campus to inspire students

When Design students graduate from USF, they might leave campus, but they don’t leave our community.  Recently two groups of alums came back to campus to visit with students in current classes.  They participated in guest critiques, spoke on panels about life in the professional design world, reminisced about their days in XARTS, and shared jokes with current students.

Juniors and seniors currently enrolled in the Design Studio Workshop class are working on revising and creating work in their portfolios to reflect their individual goals after graduation.  Professor Rachel Beth Egenhoefer wanted to bring in professionals to the classroom to give students feedback and advice on their work.  Rather than bring in strangers, Egenhoefer decided to invite four alums back for a day – Antonia Hidalgo (2012) a Interaction Designer at YouTube, Maia Olmstead (2011) a Senior Web Designer at Eventbrite, Sarah Jean Recht (2011) a Designer at Hybrid Design, and Darren Wong (2012) a Product Designer at UserTesting.  The room was full of energy as current students met with alums to get advice on things ranging from small tweaks to their portfolios to the kinds of jobs they might want to go after.  Senior Alex Foster (2018) was among the current students who shared it was “inspiring and reassuring to see people who went through the same program we are in currently on the other side of graduation. They are the most honest people about what to expect post graduation and genuinely want to help current students.”  Junior Marisol Reyes (2017) said she “felt so fortunate to have had the opportunity to take part in the alumni crits because it’s helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes look over your portfolio and help showcase your potential as an artist and a designer”.  The alums were all happy to be back in the same lab they once learned in, now as mentors, and to share in the energy of XARTS.

Design Alums and current students together in XARTS

Design alums (front row) Antonia Hidalgo, Darren Wong, Maia Olmstead, and Sarah Jean Recht  return to campus to meet current students.

Students in the capstone class Senior Design Projects attended an alumni panel featuring  Chris Chappelle (2012) a Lead designer at Bright Funds, Camille Esposito (2015) a Brand Designer at Getaround, Jacob Ewing (2012) a Designer at Culture Amp, and Claire Giffen (2016) a Visual Designer at USF’s Office of Marketing Communications.  Alums shared insights on their career paths from graduation to today.  They also shared their perspectives on different types of paths – freelance, agency, and in house positions; small start ups to large companies; and finding the right fit in a job.  Having been out of school for several years our alums were able to reflect on their journeys from graduation, finding their first jobs, and getting to where they are today.   Senior Gina Kuhlmann (2018) said that “through the alumni panel, I was able to connect with designers’ advice who have been in my position and know what I am currently experiencing in the program. I enjoyed hearing about each alumni’s career path and personal passions, and seeing how they have stayed connected with one another and the faculty post-USF. Graduation and job searching is stressful, but hearing their stories make me excited and hopeful for the opportunities that are opening up to me and my peers.”

Design alums seated for panel discussion

Design alums Chris Chappelle, Camille Esposito, Claire Giffen and Jacob Ewing share stories about their professional experiences at Alumni Night