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 with a few CCAD valedictorians about what they’d tell current students and fellow alums.
Class of 2009, Animation
When Nathan Adams was deciding on colleges, he narrowed it down to a few that were well-known in his field of interest: animation. The deciding factor ended up being the size and community. “CCAD was not nearly as crowded as other schools,” he said. “At CCAD, I could get more one on one with my instructors and peers. I saw that CCAD builds a community among its students and faculty which really sets them apart from others I saw.”
He did not regret his decision. While a student at CCAD, he learned the art of visual storytelling from then Chair of Cinematic Arts, Ron Saks. Chair of Animation Charlotte Belland taught him how to become a part of the animation community, and Assistant Professor Andy Fitz taught him the art of motion.
He and his friends would often say, “CCAD is the Hogwarts of art schools."
"There was always something new, crazy and incredible to learn and experience," Nathan said.
The biggest thing he learned was how to grow as an artist.
“The teachers I had taught me how to anticipate new things coming around the curve, how to dive into my field and truly be successful with a team, and to always, ALWAYS learn new things,” he stated.
Since graduation, Nathan has worked for a number of companies, including Wonderful Graffiti, Glavan ImageWorks and Emerson Network Power. Currently, Nathan co-owns AR.GI.BI Creative Studio, sells work on WeejaPeeja, and teaches part-time at CCAD.
“The community of peers (CCAD) helped me build in school are ones I still work and interact with to this day,” he said. “The whole experience has been wonderful, valuable and most definitely life-changing for me.”
Class of 2007, Fine Arts
Suzie Dittenber was a high school English teacher who first became acquainted with CCAD through evening continuing education courses.
“I was thrilled the depth of instruction and fell hard for the practice of painting as a result,” she said.
So she earned a BFA and the title of valedictorian in 2007.
Then she received a full tuition scholarship to the University of New Hampshire. Now, Suzie is a tenure-track professor of drawing, painting and printmaking at Taylor University. She also currently has an exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The love she found for painting during her evening courses had stuck with her.
“The endeavor of painting continues to exert an arresting influence over my life — something for which I am very grateful.”
Class of 2002, Illustration
Throughout high school, Amanda Morley had no intention of going on to art school.
In fact, her senior year schedule left no room to even take an art class, as she focused on Advanced Placement courses like calculus and trigonometry. Amanda loved to draw, though, so she used her only study hall to work with an art teacher for personal enrichment. It was that teacher who encouraged Amanda to submit her work to an art competition affiliated with CCAD.
“CCAD must have seen some promise in my little colored pencil scribblings,” Amanda recalled, “because they offered me a scholarship to attend there that very fall.”
While at CCAD, Amanda learned “how to accept constructive criticism gracefully and put it to use, how to give everything I had to a project and then give a little bit more, how to problem-solve, how to meet unrealistic deadlines in practical ways, how to fail and recover, and how to work well collaboratively with people of differing viewpoints.”
After graduating from CCAD in 2002, Amanda worked at Ohio State University and contributed to Tastes Like Chicken Magazine before landing a job with Highlights for Children Magazine in 2007. She has been the featured illustrator for a Highlights segment called “Ask Arizona” since 2008.
Her advice to current and future CCAD students? “I’d like to encourage anyone attending or planning to attend CCAD to give every ounce of themselves to the experience; not just to develop as an artist, but to mature and evolve as a person. Columbus College of Art & Design, with its variety of faculty and students, is the perfect testing ground for expanding your horizons as an artist and as human being. It wasn’t until after graduation, when the whirlwind of projects and deadlines had passed and I truly entered the adult world, that it really occurred to me the variety of gifts CCAD had given me. I learned alongside people of different ages, ethnicities, religions, orientations and worldviews… It may sound sentimental, but CCAD is about more than art. It’s an opportunity to discover just who you are, flaws and all, and craft yourself into something of value — something unique and worth offering to the world.”
Read more from CCAD valedictorians here.