CCAD Stories: Elyse Applewhite


Portrait of Elyse Applewhite standing in front of foliage

Photo credit to Samuel Brown

New opportunities abound for Integrative Design student Elyse Applewhite (Master of Design, 2019)

Balancing a full-time job with the demands of a full-time master’s program is challenging, but for student Elyse Applewhite who is working toward a graduate degree in Columbus College of Art & Design’s new Master of Design program, knowing the hard work will lead to greater opportunities is constant motivation.

In 2010, the Atlanta native moved to Columbus to complete her undergraduate degree in Journalism at The Ohio State University. She has since worked in marketing and media roles, including her current position at Columbus’ urban radio station, Radio One. Yet attending art school and pursuing a career offering greater creative freedom has always been in the back of her mind.

“I just got an itch,” said Applewhite. “I thought, ‘OK, I need to do something. I’m not using my brain enough — I need to learn more.’ ”

Applewhite ultimately chose CCAD’s Integrative Design program for its focus on the connection between design and business. Attracted to its curriculum and optimal professions upon completion, she knew the program would build on her existing experience while nurturing her creativity. Now, with the second semester in the two-year program underway, she said her studies are equipping her with the real-world, project-based experience she’s been seeking.


“In this program, they really guide us and help mold us into design thinking,” shared Applewhite, recalling one project in which her class worked with a local business owner experiencing challenges with his business model. The students were tasked with creating new revenue opportunities by engaging customers — a project requiring extensive research, involvement with stakeholders, and the ability to adapt to real-life situations. The interactive experience is one that would not be possible in a more traditional academic setting, she added.

In addition to projects focused on research, strategic planning, and creative problem solving, Applewhite said the Integrative Design program also delves into the mechanics of business ownership, an aspect she finds especially motivational based on her own entrepreneurial aspirations.

Passionate about her community and mentoring young girls at her church, the tools she has gained from the program are helping lay the foundation for her future business — one she describes as an elevated spa experience, emphasizing customer service. Her goal is to provide employment opportunities for the young minority women she mentors, passing on her business knowledge to transition into their own careers. That sense of mentorship is one of her biggest motivators to honor the commitment of the long hours managing school and work.

“When they say it’s a full-time program, it’s really a full-time program, and you have to find those hours to do the work,” she said, but the hands-on academics with teachers well versed in various subjects are invaluable experiences. “I feel I will have an incredible competitive advantage once I complete this program.”

Read more in our series CCAD Stories.

Learn more about CCAD's Masters of Design program or apply here.