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What began as a sort of band-aid for design students who can't participate in live portfolio reviews this year, has grown into an engaging new program offering from SEGD.
“Present Yourself," a series of virtual events connecting students to professionals for portfolio reviews and professional mentorship, took place over four Thursdays this May. Pulling from across the country and internationally, 38 students and 38 professionals "Zoomed in" and shared personal perspectives about the current global climate, then moved to private breakout rooms for individual 20-minute reviews. Over the course of each session, students and professionals joined together for round-robin styled conversations, making it possible for the graduating class to hear multiple perspectives.
In order for students to participate, they were asked to become SEGD Members—a $30 annual membership. In advance of the event, students were given the option to create a 60-second introduction video to introduce themselves to mentors before their meetings. Post-event, they have the opportunity to post their résumé to the SEGD JOBS board that is visible to all job posters.
“Our goal with PY was to provide students with direct access to firm leaders and top professionals from SEGD. Our unique event structure paired students with leaders around the world in a series of sessions to gain feedback and professional insight about experiential graphic design and a future in our field of work,” says SEGD’s Chapter Chair Liaison and Associate Vice President of EGD at CallisonRTKL, Kris Helmick. Mentors from all sized firms and varied industries volunteered to speak with students, including professionals from: Entro, Gallagher, CloudGeshan, CallisonRTKL, Altitude, MERJE, Gensler, Owen Design Consultants, Tangram, Cyrano Creative, The Great Detail Guy!, Holmes Studio, IBM, Hollis + Miller Architects, Populous, and Mayer/Reed, among others.
Helmick notes that in two to three hours, students were able to meet with mentors around the world through a series of session allowing everyone the opportunity to review their work with each professional. And, the students had done their homework: They researched mentors they would be meeting, prepared questions, and had their portfolios ready to share. Schools represented included University of the Arts, University of North Hampton, University of Utah, California Polytechnic State University, Maryland Institute College of Art, Fashion Institute of Technology, California State University Long Beach, Miami University, North Carolina State University, and George Washington University among others.
“I definitely had a positive experience with SEGD's Present Yourself,” says Amira Maruf, an MFA grad student from University of Houston. “It was refreshing to get an outside perspective on my work from an audience that doesn't know who I am or what my passions are, and who have no previous biases about my program. I got recommendations on how to enhance my site navigation, and received ideas for furthering my thesis project. And, getting to introduce myself and speak with companies first-hand was an adrenaline rush. I made a lot of great connections!”
While the job market news is less than heartening right now, students received insights into opportunities they didn’t know existed. “The reviewers were positive and encouraging while being fair on areas I can build upon in my emerging career,” writes Armand Rosario, a student at Kent State University. “One reviewer even went out of his way to give me another follow-up meeting to help me understand how environmental work is done in detail; something I did not get to experience in school.” On the mentor side, Gretchen Coss, a senior associate at Gallagher & Associates, tells us that “this event gave the professional members a much-needed opportunity to stay connected with the students and future hires while we are finding our way in the new paradigm.”
Given the program’s success, SEGD will continue to offer Present Yourself biannually in January and May-June, filling a professional development need for students where they can meet global industry professionals, their mentors and design heroes. During the year, students can attend all SEGD for free, as well as tune into SEGDVoices, the member webinar series.
Thank you to Deb Satterfield and Kris Helmick for sparking the idea, and everyone involved for supporting SEGD’s next generation of designers.