NEW YORK—Weaving through construction and traffic, Lynnae Strait has become accustomed to the bustle of Midtown Manhattan. A graphic designer at GHD Partners, the Western Michigan University alumna is a long way from her hometown of Spring Lake, Michigan.
It's a destination she first saw possible on a campus tour at WMU.
"A professor was talking about how they have interns out in New York and Chicago, even worldwide … that was a really big pull for me to come to Western," says Strait, who was also impressed by the program and facilities available to graphic design students.
An honors student, Strait was awarded a prestigious Medallion Scholarship—WMU's highest merit-based scholarship for undergraduates.
"Choosing Western Michigan University was one of the best decisions of my life," she says. "The Frostic School of Art prepared me for a career in the real world of design and gave me opportunities to immerse myself in it in New York City."
Strait dove into the program headfirst, taking advantage of the support from the tight-knit graphic design department.
"The small class size makes … professors a lot more accessible, and you get to know them because you have several classes with them throughout the year," says Strait. "It makes it easier to approach them about anything pertaining to your future. They're just easy to talk to."
Faculty relationships are among the experiences mentioned most by WMU alumni. In a survey of recent graduates, 92% felt their instructors cared about them as a person and 98% had at least one instructor who made them excited about learning.
The hands-on nature of WMU's graphic design department allowed Strait to gain practical experience outside the classroom, through internships and other projects.
Among them, she designed posters for the theatre department and participated in the STEAM Collaboration project, which involved working with a chemistry student to analyze a sample of Kalamazoo River water and then turn the results into a piece of art.
"It was interesting to me to learn something outside of my expertise and also apply my graphic design knowledge to that project," says Strait. "It was a really cool opportunity."
Strait got her first taste of the Big Apple during an internship with GHD Partners her junior year.
"That connection came through alumni, and it was passed on from a professor. That was obviously a huge thing."
Another helpful experience was an intern class at WMU tailored to graphic design students.
"I already had a little bit of a leg up from my GHD internship the summer before, but that class really does a lot to teach about the etiquette of design," Strait says. "How to talk to clients is a huge thing, as well as what's expected of us as a graphic designer in the actual field."
As she looks back on her experience at Western, Strait says the networking and connections made available through the graphic design program undoubtedly helped her stand out in the field and put her on the path to success.
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