Ellen Tierney ’22, Visual Communication Design

Art has always been Ellen’s passion, and a fine arts degree seemed like a direct path for her future. But after a semester at another college pursuing that direction, it felt too limited and she decided she wanted a broader approach. Ellen returned to Vermont, transferred to NVU-Lyndon, and entered the business program for a semester, thinking it might be a good marriage with her art.

The next year she took a break from college to rethink her options, spending the year in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado leading art education programs at a resort there. “This is where my love for recreation and environmental activism really came to light,” she said. During that time, Ellen connected with professionals in the field and learned new skills and tried out new styles in her art. A new friend who had studied graphic design and sustainability in her college experience helped Ellen to figure out her next step, too.

This “seemed like the most perfect choice for me!” Ellen said, and she was excited to return to NVU to pursue a similar path the following year.

Ellen chose to concentrate on digital advertising instead of graphic design “because it fit more into the well-rounded curriculum that I was looking for,” she said “With brands being so reliant on a strong digital presence, I knew that having that included in my education would be an essential skill.”

“It was so easy to move into this degree for me,” she said. “I was nervous, because I thought it might be a bit rocky of a transition. But all my credits transferred into the visual communication design program, including the business marketing credits she had earned at NVU.

Of the program, Ellen says, “I couldn’t be happier. I love the teachers and my classmates, and love telling my friends about the coursework I’m doing. It never feels like homework! After not knowing what to do with my art, it’s so refreshing to have this direction.”

“Graphic design seemed so foreign at first,” Ellen said. “I love fine art and hand drawing, but now love the flexibility of doing my hand drawings, digitizing them, and using them — it’s perfect!”

Of her professors, Ellen says Kelly Glentz Brush “is so organized and her assignments are so valuable. They are actually for something.” In the higher-level courses, the students work on real projects, like the greeting card design project where each designed the front of a card and ordered it for printing. One card was chosen as the card for the department to use, and Ellen “was lucky enough to have my card chosen to be used,” she said. Another project had the students designing a 100-page book in conjunction with the illustration class. She’s also learning everything she needs to know about the full range of digital design programs for layout and publication.

Ellen hopes to have a design internship next summer to use these skills in the field. Her advice to new students: “College seems so daunting when you’re in high school, but it’s such a fantastic environment — especially at NVU. It’s as flexible as you need and want it to be. Once you realize that, all the pressure is off.”

“I feel a sense of belonging here,” she said. “And that feeling is drawn out by the teachers who care so much about you. It’s also really cool how you can be in a very creative, art-driven program and then join the outing club or try out the climbing wall,” she said. “Community” is the word Ellen would use to describe the Lyndon campus. “Even though I’m not living on campus, I can be as connected to everything going on at campus as I want to; I don’t feel separated from the on-campus community.”
 
Ellen’s dream is to have her own business in the future. “Whether I choose to focus on branding, my artwork, or my love of the outdoors, I know that I will be set up to tackle anything thanks to my rich education at NVU.”