Bridging the Transition from College to Career for Graphic Design Students

by University Relations

Navigating the competitive field of graphic design can prove daunting for recent college graduates, and as in most fields, connections can make all the difference. Giving Azusa Pacific graphic design majors a distinct advantage, Becky Roe, MFA, associate professor in the Department of Art and Design, partners seniors with professional graphic designers in mentoring relationships that help bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world.

One of those mentors, Nate Lu, graduate of the Art Center College of Design and creative director at Wipit, Inc. in Pasadena, devotes his time and talents regularly, recognizing the potential of Azusa Pacific students. He began his involvement with the university when he hired two APU interns and noted some remarkable qualities in them. “APU students are incredibly well-rounded and articulate,” said Lu. “As I got to know them, I learned about the frustrations all students face when they transition into the workplace, like learning the ropes of an office environment, understanding workflow, and how to talk to clients,” said Lu. “I wanted to help seniors get ready for that before they graduated.”

“When Nate expressed a desire to work with our students, we invited him as a guest speaker, and he became one of the most popular instructors in the major,” said Roe. During their last semester, senior graphic design majors participate in a mock agency where they encounter challenging scenarios and learn to problem solve through role play. They also experience a series of mock interviews to prepare them for competitive job searching, and participate in video conferences with practicing creative directors, giving them invaluable insight and access to professionals through a live question-and-answer session.

Simultaneously, Roe has been developing a course to complement ART 450 Portfolio that equips students to make the transition to professional practice in graphic design. They will develop business practices, market a personal brand, create a Web presence, and learn how to focus on the present while looking to the future in their field. These courses, coupled with hands-on experiences and real-world advice, open countless opportunities for APU graduates seeking design careers.

Several alumni in the profession have already contacted Roe, excited to mentor their fellow Cougars. Cameron DeArmond ’02, MFA, creative director at Conscious Minds Productions in Pasadena, stepped up to offer internships and other opportunities for APU design students. As a biblical studies and youth ministries major, DeArmond served in the church for 10 years before developing his portfolio and shifting careers, giving him priceless perspective as he advises students about integrating their faith and their art. As these emerging designers enter the workplace eager to become difference makers through creative expression, they embark on their careers in community, equipped through education and supported by a network of dedicated professionals.

Originally published in the Fall '14 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.