Teaching the tough lessons
One of the professors who had a strong effect on my life was (Emeritus Professor of Art) Karen Nulf. A short article on an online art auction to raise money to create a scholarship in her name ran in Ohio Today a few issues ago.
It was my junior year in the graphic design program in the School of Art. I was a single parent trying to make it through a tough program. I was unable to afford an apartment, so I was living with my daughter's day care provider through the week and traveling home to Zanesville on the weekends.
At this time, the design program held a junior portfolio review. You would either be accepted in the program and continue on to senior studio or not be accepted. Not being accepted left you with basically two choices: Finish up the requirements needed for a general art degree and graduate on time, or take junior studio again and reapply with the possibility of not being accepted again. Either way required an additional year at school.
I was cut; I had not been accepted into senior studio. At first I was very upset. I felt like I had wasted so much time and effort, along with money. Then I was angry. I decided to get my general arts degree and even graduate a quarter earlier than if I had been accepted. Then I talked to Karen. I could tell it was a hard decision for the group that cut me, knowing that I was a single parent. But it was especially hard for Karen, being a single parent also. Talking to her made me realize that I really wanted this -- I wanted a degree in graphic design.
So at that point I decided to retake junior studio. The risks were high, but somehow talking to Karen made me realize that I and she believed I could do it.
I spent that summer getting my life in order, finding an apartment I could afford and a quiet space to concentrate on my projects. No more driving back and forth every weekend.
Then Karen helped me out again. I was working as a computer lab assistant in the design lab when she told me about a possible position at the University's Office of Graphic Communications. She sent me over with my portfolio, and I got the job. Now I would be able to get real-world experience.
And as you can imagine, with my writing this, I did it. I was accepted into senior studio. I have even saved both of the evaluation forms from the reviews.
The improvement was incredible. As Karen said, I didn't just pass the review, I danced my way through it. The following summer Karen and I had a chance to work together for the Office of Graphic Communications. We would gather up our work and head over to the design lab to work on projects for the University. This is also when I had the chance to teach Karen. I taught her how to use Quark XPress.
My senior year went well. At the end of the year the department holds a senior show. A designer from the professional world is invited to juror the show. This year it was Leslie Hayes, a graphic design alum who worked for American Express in New York. Four others and I were selected for interviews with Leslie the afternoon before the reception and announcement of the Charles Logan Smith Award. That evening was one of the best of my life -- not only was I going to graduate with a degree in design, but I won the award. I went from being cut from the program to being the best in my class.
Because of the encouragement of Karen and some of the other professors in the design program, I was able to believe in myself enough to try again, and now I get to do something I love.
Karen is still an important part of my life. We get together occasionally.
At this time Karen is a professor emeritus who lives in Athens. And for a short while she is teaching full time again in the design program. She taught for more than 30 years in the program before retiring. Toward the end of last year, two faculty members submitted their resignations, leaving only Don Adleta, who had plans to take the following year off for sabbatical and travel to Amsterdam and to practice design. Don turned to Karen and asked her if she would be willing to teach full time and chair the program in his absence. With the program being such an important part of her life, she couldn't say no.
She and Don also sent out e-mails to everyone they knew in the search for others to teach and managed to get two very wonderful designers to come to Athens, one being an alum. She also asked me to teach a class in typography last winter quarter. I am honored that she thinks highly enough of me as a designer to be a teacher now.
Stacey Riley Pugh, BFA '95