BGSU alum credits co-op experiences for launching graphic design career at Pro Football Hall of Fame

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – On Saturday, Aug. 5, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 is set to be enshrined at the game’s legendary museum in Canton, Ohio. As football fans from around the world make their way into the museum’s hallowed halls, they will be surrounded by the works of a recent Bowling Green State University alumna.

During her time at BGSU, visual communication technology graduate Sara Wehner ’22 balanced a full course load while completing three co-ops, including one at the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer. She now credits the requirement with helping launch her career as a graphic designer at the world-renowned museum.

“Looking back, I don’t think I could be more grateful for being required to get those three co-ops,” said Wehner, who grew up in Bad Axe, Michigan. “Even though it was challenging at the time, those experiences led me to where I am today.”

The semester-long, paid co-ops provide students with the equivalent of one full year of work experience before graduation.

Wehner was finishing up her co-op at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August 2022 during the Class of 2022 enshrinement, a weeklong celebration leading to the official welcoming of inductees and revealing their bronze busts.

‘First thing everyone sees’

A year later, in her full-time role on the marketing team, Wehner has designed many key visual elements for the Class of 2023 enshrinement, including a 30-foot wide by 40-foot tall banner displayed on the outside of the facility that's visible from Interstate 77.

“It’s the first thing everyone sees when they enter the museum,” Wehner said. “Thousands of people are going to see that throughout the year.”

The Class of 2023 inductees saw the banner firsthand at the Hall of Fame in March, a surreal moment for Wehner as she witnessed the former NFL players’ reactions to her work.

“It was incredible to see what it meant to them and hear these legendary sports figures comment on how cool it was to see their faces on the banner I designed,” she said. “They’re so appreciative of what we’re doing here to honor them, which makes doing this work even more rewarding.”

Although the inductee ceremony is the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s largest annual event and is a central focus of Wehner’s job, she also designs marketing materials, billboards and social advertisements to promote other events and encourage visitors to the museum.

In addition to graphic design, Wehner assists with photography and social media. A recent proud achievement, she said, was designing an exhibit honoring women in football.

Becoming media agile

Preparing students to be well-rounded with broad creative and technical problem-solving skills is one of the hallmarks of the University’s VCT program.

“We’re preparing students to be media agile, meaning they have a broad skill set that allows them to make educated decisions about the best way to solve diverse visual communication needs,” said Dr. Donna K. Trautman, associate VCT professor at BGSU. “Students will typically gravitate toward one specialty, but having a broad foundation in numerous aspects of visual media is incredibly valuable in the industry today.”

Wehner had an interest in graphic design throughout the program, further fostered through her co-ops and a position with the University’s football team.

During her senior year at BGSU, Wehner developed graphics for prospective recruits who committed to playing football at the University and alumni of the program. The unpaid role didn’t count toward her co-op requirement, but the experience solidified her passion for sports design.

“The knowledge I gained was invaluable,” she said. “I love designing for sports, and that experience inspired me to apply to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

Trautman said witnessing students’ success is still as rewarding as when she first began teaching at BGSU more than three decades ago.

“Sara is motivated, goes after what she wants and is looking for opportunities in everything,” she said. “I had no doubt in my mind that she’d be successful. It’s reinvigorating every time you see a student succeed, and you know you had just a small part in it.”

Updated: 08/03/2023 11:04AM