Advice from a college senior: Stay curious, confident and connected

As we welcome new additions to the RMCAD family this fall, we can’t help but shine a light on our seniors, specifically illustration student Emily Person. Person sat down with us to share her advice and lessons for the next generation of artists as they enter this new exciting chapter at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.

Tell us a little about your education journey.
I’ve had a meandering college journey, including transferring schools twice, taking time off to work, moving across the country three times and of course COVID-19! I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve felt burnt out or wondered if I could “make it” in the “real world,” or even to graduation. However, I’ve always kept my eyes on the goal and have seen how even in periods of burnout, I always come back to art, which confirms I’m right where I am meant to be.

Looking back, what advice would you give your freshman self?
First, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Most people are more than willing to help when you’re in a tough spot. Second, advocate for yourself! This is your education and your career, no one else’s. Take ownership for shaping it. Remember, you’re going to get out of your college experience what you put in.

What are a few of your biggest takeaways or lessons learned since your time at RMCAD?
Meeting new people and building relationships will only enrich your college experience, and it doesn’t have to be scary. It’s valuable to meet people who think differently than you, as those thoughtful conversations and new perspectives will help shape you. And of course, it results in having friendships and community! Just introduce yourself and ask questions! I’ve also learned that every experience can and will shape you as a person. Those seemingly boring classes, irrelevant topics or difficult projects will influence your goals, beliefs, work and perspective. Stay curious!

How has RMCAD helped prepare you for your next chapter?
I think the biggest thing RMCAD has given me is confidence! Before coming here, chasing a career in illustration felt as achievable as walking to the moon. Now, even though I know it will still require hard work, my dream job feels attainable. I’ve met so many artists who are doing what I want to do and received so much affirmation that I’m not crazy for wanting to go into the arts. I’ve also realized how important it is to have a community of creatives supporting you along the way.

How important was building community while at RMCAD?
Vital! I honestly don’t think I would have learned half as much, nor gotten the help I needed or felt supported without the relationships I built. Community was also one of the top reasons I came to RMCAD, so I am so glad I prioritized that aspect of my education.

How do you recommend students get involved on campus or virtually?
Definitely attend events to meet people, get to know your instructors outside of class, use the facilities on campus and get involved in a work-study or student ambassador program, if you qualify. If you are attending RMCAD online and live nearby Denver, come to events and meet on-ground students! If you are out of state, prioritize finding artists near you, even if they are not enrolled at RMCAD. It’s so important to have other artists or creatives pushing you onward when the going gets tough. Find your people and you can do anything!

For additional tips for new students, check out 10 tips for RMCAD freshmen or follow along on the RMCAD blog for additional stories. Here’s to a fantastic school year!