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Reflection: MU Education & Connections Fuel a Creative Career

Julian Kiganda ’98

Choosing to attend Marymount was the best decision I made for my career. Although I had been accepted to several schools – including Princeton and Johns Hopkins – I decided to go to Marymount because of its small size, its Catholic background, and its highly respected Graphic Design program.

I’m happy to say that my decision paid off – in more ways than one. The design program gave me a strong foundation in the fundamentals of my profession. The professors encouraged us to explore alternative design solutions, applying theory to real-world situations. In all of our projects, they challenged us to push the envelope. I also made great connections at Marymount. In my senior year I served as an escort for Career Day, and the individual I was escorting ended up offering me my first post-college job, at the Nature Conservancy! So I can confidently say that Marymount gave me the tools and the connections to build a successful career in graphic design.

Fortunately for me, the Marymount experience didn’t end at graduation. I kept in touch with Professor Barry Erdeljon throughout the years and, in 2008, we worked together to create the exhibits for the Freedom House Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. That project also involved another Marymount alumna, Sarah Gulick ’04, as well as several current students and staff members. It was a successful collaboration, so we kept an eye out for other opportunities to work together. Soon enough, one presented itself: Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, saw the Freedom House exhibit and personally selected my company, Vibrant Design Group, to design his organization’s Centennial Exhibit.

We had five months to create a spectacular 4,000-square-foot, high-tech/high-touch exhibit – a project that would normally take 12 to 18 months. It was an intense and challenging task, made easier by the fact that I had worked with most of the team members before and we had a very efficient workflow. In order to complete the project on time, I pulled in additional consultants and vendors from Chicago, New York, and Cleveland. I learned so much about exhibit design from Lyndi Carvalho ’00, who had worked at some top design firms, and I was wowed by the state-of-the-art video wall developed and programmed by Professor Erdeljon and Sarah Gulick. One of the exhibit’s theme songs was created by two Marymount staff members: Director of Student Activities Vincent Stovall (lyrics) and Performing Arts Coordinator Gerry Gillespie (music).

The exhibit opened in July 2010, to rave reviews. I am proud to have created something so historic and highly acclaimed, but I’m even prouder to say that I did it in collaboration with my friends and colleagues from Marymount University.