My EDPA “University Affiliations Program" Experience by Mike Vallone, Assistant Creative Director & Senior Exhibit Designer, Hill & Partners

 Mike Vallone

Mike Vallone

For the past three years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Bemidji State University students through the EDPA University Affiliations program. Its been well invested time, regularly connecting with students to discuss their work, professional skills, and transition from student into career creative.

It’s evident the impact you can have on the immediate projects of the eager students who genuinely appreciate the feedback. As with any creative endeavor, simply a fresh set of eyes can transform the process and positively affect the outcome. Input from a seasoned professional can amplify that effect tenfold, and these students really relish the opportunity as a result. My experience with the BSU program in particular, is a group of young professionals with talent, drive, and professionalism; something that amplifies the reward for the professional tenfold.

For me, that’s what’s been so special about participating in this program. It really is a mutually beneficial experience. I got into this thinking, “I’m good at this, so I can help others be good at it too.” In hindsight it was pretty ego filled and naïve, because three years later I’ve probably learned more in our exchanges than the students. It’s an exceptional program that churns out exceptional professionals, and I feel like I’m feeding off that positive energy just by coming in contact with it.

You leave a call with a student looking for insight on the major career decisions they’re facing knowing that you were able to leverage your experience to support them in finding their way, and its hard not to be empowered and inspired. And that energy is infectious, permeating its way into your day and the day of people around you. Well invested time for sure.

And that’s just the personal benefit. Sure, its easy to feel good about coaching a student to a clever solution they overlooked because the result is instantly gratifying. The real reward is what the students are destined to accomplish with their careers. They didn’t stumble backward into this industry like so many of us did. They actively chose it. They poured their energy into it. They have the support of an amazing faculty, and access to the experience of dozens of industry professionals. They’re on the fast track to success.

Look around the industry and you’ll see proof of the BSU graduates impact. It has a lot to do with the faculty, and whatever they’re putting in the water up in Northern Minnesota, but the time invested by industry professionals around the country through the EDPA University Affiliations program has without a doubt had a major impact on their success. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.