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Collaborative Poster Project Named STLCC Innovation of the Year

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Theresa Smythe and Mike SwobodaA collaborative project between students in the typography course and a student selected by the Access office at St. Louis Community College-Meramec has been chosen as the STLCC District Innovation of the Year. 

This year’s Access Office Student Spotlight project was organized by Theresa Smythe, disability support specialist in the Access office, and Mike Swoboda, professor in graphic communications.

The spotlight project gives teams of students in ART 236:Typography an opportunity to design posters based on information gleaned from interviews and images captured from a photo shoot with the Access office honoree.

During the interview, the honoree/client shares personal information, including goals and interests, the challenge of their disability and personal philosophy. Designers first share their work with the client, during which time designs are critiqued by the client, designer, typography instructor and Access office representative. Finalized designs are sent to the client, who chooses the poster that best represents that client’s interests and suits the needs of the Access office. 

The winning poster is displayed in the Access office during a special installation event. The winning design team receives an award and certificate of participation. All student design teams receive a certificate. 

The project is a collaborative effort between students in graphic communications and the Access office at Meramec. It has become a standard final project for students in the typography class. 

“It has been a tremendous joy to look in the eyes of a student as they listen to me explain that the Access office wants to honor them – for the amazing person they are and the inspiration we believe they can be to others with and without disabilities” Smythe said. “It has been a joy to watch the faces of the graphic design students as they listen to the story as told by our honoree. I’ve watched students change before my very eyes from people who didn’t even know each other into people who admire one another for their attributes no matter their differences. It has become a project that celebrates and inspires students who are on a path to becoming their best selves. That’s huge.” 

Swoboda said that the assignment serves as a critical opportunity for current students and future professionals to develop an impactful client-oriented and community-based project. 

“I find this project as integral to our graphic design training for our students who can never have enough real-world projects,” Swoboda said. “You can never have enough projects in which students are to develop empathy for a client. We have this wonderful opportunity to work with a great project that is impactful to so many students. 

Smythe said the project also benefits the Access office. The previous winning posters, created each semester since spring 2016, are displayed in buildings on the Meramec campus.  

“As these beautiful posters move into other parts of the campus, we have had students with hidden disabilities take notice,” she said. “They come to our office and tell us that they saw a poster that provided them the encouragement they needed to disclose their needs as a student with a disability. That is one thing that I really want the honoree and the designers to understand – that their collaboration really does have a positive impact on individuals with disability.” 

The League for Innovation in the Community College established the Innovation of the Year Award  to recognize an individual or group from each of the league board and alliance member colleges who use creative, productive approaches to meet new needs or solve old problems. Criteria for the award are quality, efficiency, cost effectiveness, replication, creativity and timeliness. STLCC has participated in the program since 1983-84. 

The other Innovations of the Year that were considered for the district honor were:

  • Forest Park – Devon Bennett for “Inter-Professional Simulation.”
  • Meramec – Cindy Claussen, Sally Kloppe, Elizabeth Busekrus, Asma Zangana, Kelly Hadley, Jill Mueller, Becky Helbling and Al Lloyd for “Long Night against Procrastination.”  

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