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U alum consults with design student.

Graphic design senior Jordon Noll (left) participates in a portfolio critique with Allan Peters, a senior designer and art director with Industrio, at the graphic design portfolio review event on May 8.

Planning bright futures

Student and Alumni Board at the new College of Design

by Kristi Goldade

May 25, 2007

When the new College of Design opened in 2006, formed from an amalgam of several previously existing colleges, the students and alumni faced questions concerning transition and growth. They also looked to the student experience and what they could do to improve it. Preparing students for the realities of working in the design community was one of the issues that they wanted to address. To do that, the college formed the Student and Alumni Board, the first of its kind at the U.

"Most colleges have separate organizations that serve [students and alumni]," says board president Mike Lee. "This board is made of two groups with different perspectives, but with similar goals. I am certain the mix will lead to good ideas and community building in our new college."

The board is made of committees--led by student-alumni pairs--representing each area of study within the college. For example, masters of architecture student Catherine Sandlaund leads the architecture committee with Nick Sperides (B.Arch. 1983), principal of Welman Sperides Architects. Together they plan events and initiatives for architecture students.

"This board is made of two groups with different perspectives, but with similar goals," says board president Mike Lee. "I am certain the mix will lead to good ideas and community building in our new college."

This networking and leadership opportunity benefits participating students, who say they are honored to associate with committed alumni. Alumni, too, benefit from participation. They are able to take an active role in shaping the new college while developing the students who will someday work alongside them.

Although each committee advocates for its field, as a board they work to bridge the seeming unlike disciplines of design--like graphic design, housing studies, and architecture. Building community is their number one priority. They also keep connected with the College of Design administration, and can recommend courses and major tracks practical for the working world.

"Younger alums [on the board] will often speak to classes of incoming freshmen about the realities of a 'glamorous' job in design," says Lori Mollberg, director of alumni relations. "Many of them are recent grads, so they can really address the concerns of soon-to-be graduates." Mollberg says she has seen an increase in the participation of younger alums in the board.

The board also works with the University of Minnesota Alumni Association's Mentor Connection program, and together they match 175 design students with working professionals.

To develop student potential, the board works on several projects. It hosted a lunch series where students could meet college dean Thomas Fisher and discuss in an informal atmosphere such things as multi-disciplinary class projects and the growing public interest in sustainable design. In April, the board organized a tour of local graphic design firms.

"It has been great to be around a bunch of people excited about design and the new college." says Lee, "Though as students, we focus on our studies, the relationships we make here at the U are equally as important to our educational development as the coursework."

For more information on the College of Design's Student and Alumni Board, contact Anne Schultz at 612-626-9068 or