STLCC Scholarship Designed to Help Diversify Graphic Design Field
Solomon Jackson wants to be a professional graphic designer. He is exactly the type of student for whom Sarah Birdsall initiated a scholarship through the St. Louis Community College Foundation.
Birdsall, professor emerita at Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, established the STLCC St. Louis Design Scholarship in 2022 with a $100,000 donation. The scholarship, for second-year students, supports historically underrepresented students who are pursuing careers in visual communications.
Birdsall is a founding member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts St. Louis and an AIGA Fellow. She began a personal crusade to infuse more diversity into the field after participating in a 1990 national AIGA working conference titled “Why is Graphic Design 93% White?” She has committed to communicating to parents and students the career opportunities and need for students of color to enter the socially influential field of visual communications.
“It is my hope that this scholarship program, integrating community, mentorship, academic counseling and connection to the St. Louis design community, will give these students a platform to ultimately graduate with an undergraduate degree that opens the door to professional employment and the opportunity to influence and diversify the future of design,” Birdsall said.
Jackson was one of the first two scholarship recipients in fall 2022. Three more have been chosen for fall 2023. Awardees receive a tuition scholarship to cover the cost of their final two semesters at STLCC, as well as a MacBook laptop and software to support their academic work. This fund also helps to address students’ needs outside of tuition, ensuring they have access to wraparound services as they work to complete their associate degree and move to a local university to complete their undergraduate degree and join the St. Louis workforce.
Scholarship applicants have the chance to present a portfolio of their work to the scholarship selection panel. In addition, scholarship recipients are connected to both AIGA St. Louis and the St. Louis affiliate of the American Advertising Federation, and provided information about internship opportunities.
After completing his associate degree in graphic communications in May, Jackson was selected for a summer internship at New Honor Society in St. Louis.
“I was able to gain vast amounts of experience in areas that I did not even know existed, and I made some connections that I wouldn't have crafted if I didn't go at all,” Jackson said. “The instruction was great. By the latter half (of the internship), I had more freedom to express myself when it came to designs and my overall projects.
“Of course, there were days that I struggled, but I never felt like I was left hanging and was always supported and guided to where I needed to go to complete the project,” he added. “The people and just the atmosphere was a learning experience that I couldn’t replace anywhere else.”
Expanding the Field
During his internship, Jackson worked on a variety of projects, He designed social posts, illustrated storyboards and, with the rest of his intern class, rebranded New Roots Urban Farm, a local farm in the city of St. Louis. He helped create the designs for the social post as well as buttons. stickers, and digital elements for Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms.
“Solomon’s talent and skillset throughout the internship demonstrated that St. Louis Community College faculty and curriculum helps prepare their design students for the workforce in just two short years,” said Heidi Singleton, president and chief creative officer for New Honor Society.
Singleton said she looks forward to providing future opportunities for STLCC students.
“New Honor Society is committed to recruiting and retaining diverse talent at all levels, ensuring that our agency team is reflective of the populations we reside in and reach,” Singleton said. “Solomon’s diverse background and perspective helped shape and elevate the work to more positively impact our clients and culture at large.”
Jackson currently is a freelance designer. He plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in the future. He’s also working to get a comic published and making other entries in that series. Jackson ultimately wants to create his own comic book publishing company.
“People can submit and have their comics published online as well as have them printed for the public to buy physically,” he said. “After that, the sky is the limit.”
The internship, Jackson said, proved to him that he can succeed professionally as a graphic designer.
“The internship definitely boosted my confidence knowing that others thought my work was good enough to pay me consistently,” Jackson said.
How You Can Help
More information about how to donate to the St. Louis Design Scholarship fund can be found online.
Leaders from local design firms and area businesses interested in learning more about how they can help support STLCC students through mentoring, internship opportunities and career advancement are invited to contact the STLCC Foundation via email at email@example.com or by phone at 314-539-5472.