: teaching philosophy :

I have enjoyed learning new things ever since I was a little girl. From crocheting stuffed animals and knitting a sweater when I was in the 6th grade to illustrating the literary club journal and sewing my prom dress in high school, I have always enjoyed arts and crafts, which led to my decision to pursue a career in graphic design. I loved my undergraduate experienced at The University of Cincinnati and was ready to enter the professional world to put what I had learned into practice.

I have a wide range of design skills in disciplines from business-to-business and corporate identity to publication design, advertising, point-of-purchase displays and retail marketing. In my career I went from designing 4-page brochures to 150+ page magazines to designing packaging displays for large pharmaceutical companies in national retail stores. I bring this experience into the classroom in order to give the students real world examples as well as being able to expose them to all of the wonderful opportunities that are available to them as they pursue a career in graphic design.

I feel it is very important to stay up to date with the latest design strategies and technologies and have made sure to attend workshops and conferences as often as I can. I think that it’s important to always stay on the learning track and not get behind. When I started teaching part-time at The University of Akron in 2002 I really appreciated the fact that I had so much to teach the students from my professional experiences and I found that it also provided me with opportunities to learn from the students as well. My recent experience in graduate school has enriched my design education even more, and has allowed me to purse my interests in interactive, motion and user experience design. These areas of design have also heavily influenced my research interests as many of my artifacts have been websites and iPad app prototypes.

I have also learned that communication is essential to success in the classroom, and I stress the importance of allowing the students share what they’ve discovered and learned as well as exposing them to new ideas that they may not have thought of or considered. As designers we are our own best resources and when given the opportunity I encourage and motivate my students to think openly and creatively and to take risks and explore different avenues and solutions to the problem at hand. Each student comes from a different background and has unique experiences and ways of looking at life. I encourage them to bring this experience into their projects and to share it with their peers. I do the same in my teaching processes, and through this openness of ideas, hope that each student leaves my class at the end of the semester having learned or experienced something new and different than they have before.

Giving the students feedback is the most important aspect of teaching that I value in the classroom. Students learn and grow through feedback and constructive criticism. So often I hear students relay their frustration about doing poorly on a project without knowing why, and that the teacher “just didn’t like it,” but didn’t give them any reasoning behind the poor grade. This leads me to the one area I struggle with in the classroom which is making sure I don’t give the student the answer or solution to the design problem at hand. As a former art director, it’s easy for me to look at a design and say, “it just needs this color or that typeface,” but it’s important for the student to come up with a solution on their own, otherwise they aren’t learning anything. I will often give clues and subtle guidance, but the moment I see that lightbulb go off in a student’s eyes and they turn in a project that they are proud of is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment for me, especially if they came to that solution on their own.

In my studio classes I put a lot of emphasis on the importance of critique. I believe it is essential for students to be able to talk about their ideas and designs in front of the class, as well as being able to listen to constructive criticism and learn from it. This is an excellent opportunity for them to get feedback from me as well as from their peers, as well as being able to talk about the work of the other students in the class. I support a classroom with open communication and encourage the students to interact with each other as much as possible. During a critique I often pair the students up so that each one has to both give and receive feedback about their projects. I often hold small group critiques as well so that it’s less formal and the students can feel more comfortable about speaking in front of each other.

I am fortunate to have consistently high student evaluations, and am always humbled when my students ask if I am teaching again the following semester. I have had the privilege of having students repeatedly in my classes from sophomore level up to their senior year, and it’s wonderful watching them grow and evolve as students into professional designers. Throughout the highs and lows that I’ve experienced teaching graphic design, I cannot imagine pursuing any other career in the field, and look forward to establishing myself as a design educator where I can continue to learn, research and contribute to the design community.