Class of 2020 Success Stories: VCT majors navigate through COVID-19 to finish capstone projects

Seniors get taste of real-world experiences before immerse themselves as working professionals

By Meredith Troxel ’20

Bowling Green State University’s undergraduate degree in Visual Communication Technology (VCT) teaches students four specialties of media: print design, interactive media, video production and photography. Students take introduction classes in all four areas and then are able to specialize in two or more areas for the remainder of their courses. 

For the final course of their VCT sequence, students work directly with a client in the community. This capstone, or synthesis course, hopes to give students a taste of real-world experiences before they immerse themselves as working professionals.

Two 2020 VCT graduates give great credit to their synthesis class for helping them gain experience and knowledge before graduation, including during unprecedented times in their final semester.

BGSU’s VCT program was a great fit for Jake Roth, who attended Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville, a Cleveland suburb, for graphic imaging technology during his junior and senior years of high school. Roth focused his VCT classes on print media and marketing.

Roth completed his synthesis project with Main Street Cookies & Café, a new sector of Work Leads to Independence (WLI) in Bowling Green. WLI is a nonprofit that helps individuals with disabilities within the community through community participation and personal achievement.

“For my synthesis project, I helped WLI increase their community awareness by creating a brand identity for their bakery,” Roth said. “This included a logo, menu, order form, business card, coupon card, promotional flyer and in-store display.”

Roth found his partnership with WLI through his job in BGSU Dining’s marketing department. BGSU Dining also employs individuals through WLI’s Community Employment Services program. His supervisor referred him to WLI, where Roth became their marketing consultant.

When everything was going great for Roth, COVID-19 hit and affected the second half of his synthesis project. The initial timeline had to be pushed back, but he was able to successfully complete the work. A few long-term pieces of the project were pushed back even further, but Roth will continue to work toward their completion this summer.

“I adapted to the changing environment by continuing to communicate with WLI to make sure that we were always on the same page. Although we weren’t able to have our in-person meetings, we were still able to communicate effectively,” Roth said. “This situation taught me that change is inevitable. It’s our responsibility to embrace change that comes our way and continue to continue progressing. Some progress is better than no progress.”

Through his synthesis project, Roth learned that every task won’t come with a straight path. He realized that there will be bumps and curves along the road but being able to stay focused on the path is important.

“Your struggles and challenges don’t define you. Figuring out how to respond and overcome those struggles and challenges do,” he said.

Roth advises VCT and any BGSU student to figure out what they are passionate about and to always take advantage of co-ops and internships.

“You gain incredibly valuable work experience through these and you’re able to see what your field is like in the real world,” he said. 

Allie Godfrey, a May graduate from Dayton and part of BGSU's Honors College, found her place in VCT because she was able to effectively combine the creative and analytical parts of her brain. VCT was her perfect combination of research, art, technology and business. Godfrey focused her talents on interactive media, which includes web design.

Her synthesis project was in collaboration with Rob Snyder, first-year experience coordinator at Jerome Library and avid origamist. Godfrey created multiple diagrams that showed each step for folding many of Snyder’s most popular pieces. She was able to use Adobe Illustrator to create vector graphics for the diagrams. Their partnership began when Snyder showed Godfrey is notebook of origami sketches. Godfrey was determined to use her skills to take Snyder’s origami to the next level.

“I knew Rob personally since his wife, Kacee Snyder, was my academic advisor in the Honors College. One day, Rob showed me his notebook full of origami sketches,” Godfrey said. “They were beautifully detailed drawings, but he said they needed to be digital in order for him to submit to professional origami journals.”

Although COVID-19 did not affect Godfrey’s project as much, she was able to learn how to quickly adapt and understand what parts of her original plan were not feasible any longer. She originally planned to take professional photographs of Synder’s pieces in the VCT photo lab, before remote learning began.

“If this has taught me anything, it is that I did not realize how much work I can get done remotely. Not having access to certain things, such as the Tech Lab or face-to-face meetings, required me to get creative and really showed me how much I can get done without even getting out of my pajamas,” she said.

Godfrey recommends to other VCT students that they find a project that both the client and the student are passionate about. She credits Snyder’s enthusiasm about origami for being the driving force for helping her complete her synthesis project when she felt unmotivated.

“Though you are receiving class credit for the project, you want to treat it like a real-life client service. Having a client who appreciates your talents and respects your time is crucial,” she said. “After all, you're in this together.”

The capstone course (VCT 4670) aims to combine all aspects of visual communication problem solving, including project management, professional communication, accountability/assessment and decision making. The course also helps teach students the monetary value of their work and the positive impact they leave on the community and community partners.

COVID-19 affected many of the students’ projects. Laney Fugett, teaching professor, said that the changing environment and experiences helped them understand what it feels like to be a full-time professional. Students were able to address design and production needs and realized the importance of communication with their clients to continue the relationship.

“I believe the students learned to truly understand the many variables that affect a project or an organization. This semester pushed them, and the students’ persistence was evident,” Fugett said. “I hope they also learned how much value they bring to companies and organizations in effectively and efficiently completing projects that address the ever-changing world. They are ready to apply their 360-degree view of visual communications to lead, manage, implement and propose solutions to any industry.”