Sophomores discuss goals, purpose of year ahead

September 9, 2012

Joined by faculty from every major, sophomores gathered at Discovery World September 6 to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the Sophomore Experience, frame questions and goals about their majors and focus, and meet four alumni, who advised them:

  • Embrace what you excel at, regardless of whether it is specifically tied to your major
  • Creativity, and a creative career, are intensely valued in the workforce
  • The sophomore year creates friendships for life with people who will call on your strengths and see you through your weaknesses, whether you are a transfer student or a continuing student
  • Engage with your faculty – they are some of the best teachers you will have in your life

Neil J. Graham ’09 (Industrial Design), who works at Flux Design, a company founded by, and employing, MIAD alumni, said during his sophomore year, he wanted to be the best person in drawing in his major. “Future employers will hire you based on your expertise, knowledge base, skills and your Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, so open yourself to whatever interests you.”

His work at Flux is so varied; it allows him to use the skills of spatial planning in addition to the creating, fabricating and installing of objects. Projects include designing and building the interiors of Swig, Water Buffalo and Smokeshack restaurants in Milwaukee; tables for the Lynden Sculpture Garden; point of purchase displays for Valentine coffee roasters; furniture sets for DCI Marketing’s new 3-D technology center; a sculptural gate for Milwaukee’s Hilton Hotel; and participating in a design/build process from the ground up for Grafton’s new Rock Bottom Brewery.

Jordan Hart ’08 (Communication Design) who transferred to MIAD as a sophomore from a state school “not knowing anyone,” advised students to understand that what they think may be a waste of time in the year ahead will have a clear value their junior and senior years, and beyond. Using himself as an example, the successful author and illustrator of “Steel Rainbow,” also advised students “to go outside their major” and embrace the creativity that is all around them.

Brooklyn Henke ’09 (Painting) began her studies at MIAD thinking she would major in Illustration, then Drawing and finally Painting. Now a graduate student, she stressed the importance of the friendships and supportive community that help “keep you going when you are feeling lost and uncertain.” They will “help you push on, and be there when you struggle and fall down.”

Like her peers, Henke stressed the importance of a creative career – sharing her ability to retain her identity as a fine artist while maintaining a freelance practice that has resulted in painting for a wide variety of places, including theaters, galleries, warehouses, bars and the Hotel Metro. Henke is also known for having painted the Milwaukee Public Museum’s 125th anniversary mural, which she began during an internship as a MIAD student and continued the summer before her senior year.

Adrian Gilling ’10 (Communication Design), who transferred from a state university, also came to MIAD not knowing anyone, intimidated by the reputation of MIAD students and “naturally shy.” “Through time and especially the critique process, I got to know everyone, and among my best experiences were my friends, their honesty, and the opportunity to do great design with great faculty.”


Concerned at first that he didn’t have a job at graduation, Gilling began submitting work to packaging and design websites and zines. The recognition and work he received for doing so included being named by HOW magazine as one of 16 creatives to watch in 2012. He slowly began freelancing, taught at MIAD and is now working for a larger advertising agency.

“Sophomore year is a great year to define where you want to go.” As he told the students, his second most viewed project on his Behance network is a project he did his sophomore year!

Following further discussion of purpose with faculty chairs, the students continued their conversations in small groups with the faculty representing their major.


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