We asked one undergraduate from each of our divisions to write about what they did this summer outside the traditional classroom. Their experiences all resulted in growth and insight.
Division of Art
Staring through a black veil, while precariously balancing on my head a glorious headpiece made from fabric, silver, and human hair, the realness of this opportunity was sinking in. Feeling the weight of a uniquely rich velvet gown drape my body with its story waiting to sing, I took a step. Deep breaths filled my chest as I processioned out into the Seattle Art Fair following my fellow collaborators. When I reached where I was to stand, in front of the Iliya Freeman gallery, the butterflies took off in my stomach. Eyes were on me as I was to lead a name calling of the 42 individuals in Jono Vaughan’s Project 42, inducting Paulina Ibarra into the project.
This is just one of the many opportunities presented to me through my work with artist Jono Vaughan. I was a student at Bellevue College (BC) before I had the chance to transfer to the University of Washington. It was at BC that I met a very inspiring professor: Jono Vaughan. I quickly became influenced by her energy in the classroom and in awe of her boundless knowledge, which sparked my intrigue for teaching even more. My competitive nature did not slow me down from inquiring about becoming her teaching assistant, and I started working with her. Upon my acceptance into UW and my departure from BC, I became her studio assistant. This opportunity has exposed me to the art world outside of an academic understanding. There are many challenges with this job, simply working as many hours as I have — although a part of me thrives off it — doing twelve-hour days takes a toll. In the same respect, I have seen how hard work pays off as I’ve applied this to my own academics and life goals I aim to achieve. I have learned so much through this experience that it would be impossible for it to not have changed me. With learning comes growth, being put into situations that placed me out of my comfort zone were when I thrived the most. Perhaps some of the most interesting experiences I had were those which involved intimate meetings with curators at the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. I look forward to working with Jono on her TedX talk in November and her next major show in the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art in 2020.
I would greatly encourage anyone who is contemplating doing a summer internship or volunteering. I have been able to absorb so much through production, but I’ve also been able to manage her studio when she is gone, help guide and schedule her other assistants, edit and update her website, curate prints, etc. There are an infinite number of things I have taken with me that I will apply to my studies at UW, whether that be work ethic or tactile skill, all of it has been truly valuable and rewarding.
Division of Art History
It’s amazing how quickly a foreign country can become a home. In the short two months of my study abroad program, I began to feel comfortable in a city I never thought I would even visit: Amsterdam. With no prior interest in The Netherlands or Dutch culture, I applied to the art history program taking place there; my only desire being to study and live in a different country. The reason I picked this particular program? It was specific to my major. As an art history student, I would be willing to study any region, era, or type of art, and so a summer in Northern Europe sounded wonderful. What I acquired from the experience, however, was doubly rewarding because not only did I take a full fifteen credit quarter, but I also found myself a short term resident of a foreign city. This wasn’t just a short vacation, I was living there. As in having a favorite grocery store, going to the pharmacy, navigating the streets (on a bike) without Google maps kind of living. And that is an experience entirely different than a one week holiday abroad. It doesn’t matter so much about the location, it is simply the act of approaching the place as somewhere to fit into, rather than solely for observation, as a tourist would. The most enlightening thing for me is that once I was accustomed to the small changes, I found it wasn’t so very different than Seattle.
Of course, I wasn’t just there for that reason, I came for academics. That was a whole new experience as well. I was used to classroom lectures in dark rooms with slideshows of artwork handpicked by the professor. This summer, however, I found myself listening to lectures in the middle of large, crowded museums. This encouraged all new questions, questions not just of history and formal analysis but how we interact with that in our present day world. How do curators organize their collections, and how do the museum goers interact with it? What is the importance of representation in exhibitions or background information on artists? We had dozens of on-site examples to analyze and compare; from small contemporary art galleries to state-run museums, we were introduced to how the art world works outside of a university lecture hall. It was this kind of critical thinking that will continue to inform my work in art history for a long time, and it would not have been possible without the study abroad. Yes, I could have visited a lot of the same places on a solo trip, but I would have never had the same kind of resources. The program was well researched and well planned, and, because of this, I learned so much more than I could have alone.
The Netherlands is a wonderful country that I was surprised to fall in love with and, unsurprisingly, learned a lot from. It was an invaluable experience, personally and academically, that I would recommend to anyone.
Division of Design
This summer, I took a job I expected to dislike in an area I had long ago decided never to move back to. For 12 weeks, I returned to my birthplace of Silicon Valley, where I was a visual design intern at Intuit designing for delight alongside the QuickBooks Self-Employed XD team. And, for 12 weeks, my amazing teammates and the incredible experiences I had in the Bay reminded me that pre-conceived notions are often wrong.
I’m a visual designer studying political science whose dream has always been to work for the news media or a social impact agency. I’ve long had moral reservations against the tech industry and never imagined working in it, let alone for a financial tech giant like Intuit. So, when they called and asked me to interview, I agreed apprehensively. To my surprise, I sat down for the most stimulating and fun interview I’d ever had. My interviewers answered my ethical challenges with thoughtful honesty and convinced me that the culture at Intuit was one where I would belong. Beyond the interview, the offer was unmatched. Intuit puts their money where their mouth is when it comes to showing how much it values its employees, and, despite having opportunities to interview with the organizations I dreamed of working for, I couldn’t pass the offer up.
Upon arriving at Intuit, I discovered I would have two exciting projects to tackle. I was to design version one of the QuickBooks Self-Employed Apple Watch application and create a new widget for the QBSE iOS app, both new platforms to me. I learned how to reconcile Apple guidelines with the QBSE design system and how to push back against developers to create the most human-centered experience. By the end of my internship, the Apple Watch application was in development and I had designed seven new iOS widgets. I had been in critiques with incredible visual designers who taught me how to give and receive feedback with grace and how to tell a story about my work. But the most valuable thing I learned from my time at Intuit had nothing to do with design at all. I learned that the most important thing you can bring to work is a humble attitude and integrity, and to never pass up on forming lasting relationships with your peers. From the Chief Product and Design Officer to my New York Times illustrating teammate, the people around me were far more incredible than their nine-to-five, and they all wanted to help me succeed beyond my time at Intuit. Despite the abundance of free espresso and snacks offered to us, I think I’ll miss the people most of all.
I went into this summer expecting to decisively rule out the tech industry and the Bay Area from my future. Instead, I had an incredible experience learning from my talented colleagues at Intuit and, from music festivals to roller blading in Golden Gate Park, I found myself rediscovering my hometown in new and exciting ways. I look forward to tackling my "victory lap" year at UW as a more confident designer and independent human being, and perhaps finding myself back in Mountain View next fall.