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When our students land great internships and jobs, we all win,
says Visual Communications Prof. Bill Deering,
pictured here with former students Jessie Harte, Eric Leighton and
the streets of Manhattan on a perfect autumn day, strolling from one
hotshot advertising agency to the next, whizzing past security because
youre with Very Important People art directors and graphic designers
who work in the job of your dreams, all eager to share their insights,
experience and advice in hopes that you, too, may someday open doors for
students to follow.
For almost three decades, the University of Delawares Visual
Communications (VC) program in the Department of Art and Design has brought current undergraduates, mostly
juniors and seniors, to some of NYC's top design firms, where they meet
and interact with dozens of prominent alumni.
Leaving Old College around 6:30 a.m., students spend a full day in
the city, touring agencies, meeting Blue Hens and building their
professional network well before graduation. And because love and
loyalty for the VC program run so deep, it is not uncommon for alumni to
return to campus to advise and mentor current students. This unique
exchange is a hallmark of UD and the natural extension of a discipline
where who you know relies primarily on talent.
A UD alumnus means that person has passed through the gauntlet, that
their foundation is one of hard work, accountability and creativity,
said Larry Pipitone. Shortly after graduating in 2008, he and fellow
Blue Hens Eric Collins and Joey Ellis co-founded Grand Army, a design
firm that has done work for Nike, Beyonc??, Mountain Dew and Justin
Timberlake. The intensity of UDs program mirrors the reality of this
business. Just as this is a talent-based industry, VC is a talent-based
Its the kind of program where you can get someone in a high place
to pick up the phone, Pipitone added. Its how he got his first
internship at Wieden+Kennedy, one of the largest advertising agencies in
the world. Or how alumna Jessie Harte landed her first internship at
But I had to rebuild my entire portfolio before Bill [Deering,
longtime director of the VC program] would even let me email the alum
who worked at the publication, she recalled.
Its all about strengthening portfolios and strengthening networks,
said Deering, beloved by his students for leading winter session trips
to London and Paris, where the New York day-trip model is replicated
over a month, with a focus on global brands and businesses.
Im competitive, Deering said. I like to win, and when our students land great internships and jobs, we all win.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
UD alumni at global marketing agency Digitas speak to current students during their visit to the firm's offices in New York.
Case in point: After getting her first foot in the door, Harte,
also class of 2008, moved onto global marketing agency Digitas, where,
among her many accomplishments, she helped develop a mobile-ordering app
for Taco Bell which increased average check totals by 25 percent. She
also helped hire fellow Blue Hen Eric Leighton, class of 2014. In his
most recent project for the company, Leighton helped rebrand the
Jenn-Air product line, helping it transform from last place in a survey
of luxury kitchen appliances to holding 60 percent of the brand voice.
It was the most college-esque project Ive worked on, he told UD
undergraduates during their New York visit. Leighton compared the
process of creating logos, typefaces, digital interactions and other
components to the various projects he was assigned as student and to
ones he would help assign as an alum.
Leighton, Harte and fellow alumna Michelle Lobien (class of 2013),
ended their presentation by handing out a one-page case study to the UD
juniors and seniors in attendance, tasking them with developing
mobile-responsive websites for a variety of well-known brands, from
Amtrak to the DMV.
A month later, on another perfect fall day, the three alumni returned to campus to critique the student presentations.
For two hours, the students shared the websites and apps they built,
videos they created, and ideas they developed to help their brands stand
out in a sea of sameness. For instance, students tasked with
refreshing the website for The Olive Garden restaurant suggested a
marketing stunt where the restaurant could cater a millennials
Friendsgiving. Another group designed a mobile running app for Asics
running shoes that prioritized womens safety.
The alumni offered constructive feedback, and the students soaked it all in.
We get tested and critiqued every day in class, said senior Max Gold. Its the norm.
Senior Sara Kuzmenka said similar messages from different kinds of people can matter.
Hearing it from our professors is like hearing it from our parents, Kuzmenka said. Advice from alumni make it more real.
Senior Sarah Muldoon said knowing that alumni had similar experiences helps with confidence.
Theyve been where youve been, and theyve made it out alive, Muldoon said. And theyre successful.
Article by Artika Rangan Casini; photo by Kathy F. Atkinson