Advice nuggets from valedictorians (Part 1)

Quote from CCAD Alum Erica Day

Each year at Commencement, Columbus College of Art & Design recognizes a class valedictorian. Over the years, CCAD valedictorians have differed across majors and backgrounds, but they’ve all carved out career paths that have continued to make us proud long after they stepped off the stage at CCAD. We spoke recently with a few CCAD valedictorians about their time here and what they would tell current students and fellow alums.


Class of 2010, Fine Arts 

As an 18-year-old, Erica Day fell in love with Columbus and CCAD after just one visit. It was the perfect choice for Erica, who received a generous scholarship package and the desired distance (close, but not too close) from her hometown of metro Detroit.

Originally interested in commercial illustration, Erica found a love for oil painting and the human figure through CCAD’s foundation program and quickly changed gears.

“CCAD pushed me to become a better artist," Erica said. "I learned how to design and install an exhibition, how to write a thesis paper, how to think critically about what I was making, and how to respond to criticism."

"CCAD absolutely prepared me professionally, mentally and emotionally for a career in the arts."

Fresh out of college, Erica worked for the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. For three months, she helped people find their seats and attended free concerts by world-class artists. After that summer, she worked a slew of odd jobs, including fine jewelry sales, picture framing and teaching step-by-step acrylic painting, until settling in at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wher she is an MFA candidate and part-time instructor. 

Her advice to anyone pursuing a career in fine arts? “Say yes to every opportunity, challenge yourself as much as possible, and just. keep. making. art.”


Class of 2011, Photography 

Sean Blanton was drawn to CCAD because he wanted to attend “a well-respected private art school.” He studied design and photography and has worked for companies including Nordstrom, Nationwide Insurance, Woodford Reserve and Bed Bath & Beyond. He now works as a UX Designer for a company called PitchBook Data, where he collaborates to “build business products for the private equity and venture capital market.” In his career thus far, he credits CCAD for teaching him to, “think about the 'why.'"

“CCAD taught me a lot about what it means to be a self-starter and a lifelong learner." 


Class of 2005, Advertising & Graphic Design

Cathy Johnson was first attracted to CCAD because of the school's reputation and generous scholarship packages.

In her years at CCAD, she grew to appreciate learning about “the most current technology and design trends,” and made close relationships with the faculty members.

“I felt the faculty really cared about us and were invested in our futures,” Cathy said. "(That's) not something you get at every college.”

Now, more than a decade later, Cathy has built a 10-year career at Designer Shoe Warehouse, having worked her way up from a junior designer to the manager of the design team. She credits CCAD for some of that success, saying, “I was well prepared for the fast-paced world of retail from four years of juggling several assignments, tight deadlines and high expectations.”


Read more from CCAD valedictorians here.