Some would say I took an unconventional path to the Brandcenter, which at the time I was applying to the school seemed like a disadvantage. Yet it is the unorthodox nature of my past experiences that allows me to approach problems divergently and, on occasion, more effectively than those with a traditional design background. The VCU Brandcenter doesn’t just make exceptions for ‘non-traditional’ applicants like myself, it actively pursues them. I think this is what separates the school from all the others.
I wrapped up undergrad in 2011 with a degree in International Affairs. I then joined Teach For America Hawaii, where I taught History in a low-income special-education classroom. Teachers, as you may know, are engulfed in a hot mess of social, emotional, and academic problems, which helped me fall in love with design-thinking and creative problem solving generally. I spent the next couple of years working for various startups in a number of different sales and biz-dev roles, but my heart continued to tug me toward design. The Brandcenter proved to be a place where I could study both design and business, which aligned with my ‘non-traditional’ long-term career goals.
I encourage anyone considering the Brandcenter to consider their life experiences holistically, and to understand that their ability to solve problems creativity likely originates from some obscure chapter of their story. Believing in the value of your experience empowers you with the confidence to apply it. So I’d encourage your to take the leap with me, even if you think you may not fit the mold.
-Tommy Carroll, experience designer track, class of 2018