Student Groups Spotlight – The Design Students Organization

Jan 10, 2024 | SAMU Blog, Student Groups Spotlight

Welcome to Student Group Spotlight! Every month, we will feature a different student group to demonstrate the many diverse groups we have at MacEwan and how they all contribute to a vibrant, thriving community on our campus.

Meet the Design Student Organization! We sat down with three of their members to discuss how they create community, their recent Creators Market and how they are bridging the gap between students and industry professionals.

SAMU: Hi, welcome to the Student Groups Spotlight! Can you introduce yourselves to our readers?

Aldricia: Hi, I’m Aldricia Chong. I am the president of the DSO, and I’m in my fifth year in the Bachelor of Design program. This is my third year being a part of the DSO!

Joel: Hi, my name is Joel Sims. I’m in my second year of Design, and this is my first year being officially a part of the DSO; I am one of three Community Leads.

Anthea: Hi, I’m Anthea Pou! I’m in my fifth year of the Design Program, and this is my third year on the DSO! I am the Secretary.

SAMU: Tell us about the Design Student Organization. What do you do?

DSO: We are a Student Group based in Building 11, Allard Hall, and our goal is to create opportunities and connections between the industry and the student community so students can better understand the design work culture. We work to promote an inclusive design community and establish relationships between students. The DSO has been around for quite a while, since the design program was hosted in the Orange Hub!

SAMU: How did you get into design, and why did you join the DSO?

Anthea: I was stressed out about what to do in university and was flipping through an open house book, and I saw design and said okay, let’s do it. Afterwards, I realized I knew nothing about design, so I had to catch up in my last year of high school! Once I got accepted, I didn’t know anyone, so I went into the Design Student Google Drive and messaged the first person I saw who happened to be a part of the DSO! I ended up really liking what she was doing and how the club was trying to get students to engage with each other more, especially in first year when I was super shy and scared to put myself out there. Eventually, after a year, I decided I wanted to try being a part of the DSO and help other students who were scared like me to talk with others and make connections!

Aldricia: The reason I joined the DSO was for fun! When I was in my first and second year, I was a bit intimidated actually to join the club, but once I did, I became a Community Lead, and I just wanted to host mixers and events, especially after COVID, to help bring Students together! I didn’t have much experience, but after getting the taste of leading and reaching out to volunteers and talking to the community, I felt like that was my calling and that I had a voice, but I just had to learn how to use it.

Joel: I got involved with the DSO initially in my first year because I thought it would be the fastest way to make actual friends and connections in the program. I wanted to find like-minded people who were as invested in design as I am, so I went to the DSO events and got to know them. I really enjoyed their work, so I volunteered for a couple of events last year and had a great experience. I then wanted to get involved as a Community Lead so I could continue to promote the club in a more involved manner and convince all my second-year classmates to get involved and come to our events!

SAMU: I heard you just hosted your second Creators Market! How did it go?

Anthea: As a designer, it was cool to see how this was planned and compare it to other art markets out there, but as a student, it was stressful. My team was in charge of all the vendors, organizing them, and dealing with payment, so it was a bit chaotic, but it paid off once I went to the market and saw all the tables that I spent a lot of time with my team planning. Seeing how successful it was and how happy everyone was made it worth it.

Joel: It was interesting being directly involved with it this year. Last year, I volunteered at the market and helped out at stalls and took some photos, but being behind the scenes and seeing how early we started developing and working towards the creators’ market was amazing. It was a really unique experience. It showed me what it is like to be involved in professional design teams in a studio environment where multiple teams are working towards the same goal. Learning how to manage each other and organize our workflow has made me more prepared to handle any event planning now!

Aldricia: With this market, we started planning it back in August to meet each other and learn how we worked to organize the teams and workflow best. But, even starting in August, it was super stressful figuring out the branding and visual identity of the market, securing the location, figuring out the budget and finding resources. Once classes started, we mainly did production work, planning the layout and dealing with vendors. We did have a few hiccups, but overall, it was a huge success. It was good that we started early because we know for next time to start even earlier, and we can plan for the hiccups this time! This is our best event for community outreach and tangibly involving many students.

SAMU: What is it like for students who want to participate in the market?

DSO: It’s minimal stakes. We really want students to get involved and not stress about money or class, so we only charge $25 for one day and $30 for two days to set up a table! We do not want any exclusionary factors to prevent students from participating in the market, and we can always work with a student and figure something out if they have a concern about joining. Our goal isn’t to make money. We want students to get involved and get a taste of what being a market vendor is like!

SAMU: What other events and workshops do you host?

Joel: The main event we host is called Limelight. It’s a casual design talk with various industry professionals, often MacEwan alums, hosted by us throughout the year! It provides an opportunity for students to interact with the industry, and they usually talk about their experience in the program and how it impacted their career moving forward. It’s an excellent opportunity for design students to hear about what their future could be like and ask questions.

Aldricia: To add to that, when people hear industry professionals, they get intimidated, but many of our speakers who come in are just designers or illustrators who are really involved in their respective communities and want to spread their knowledge! Often, they will discuss how they balance a 9-5 job with room for their creative talent for things other than profit or monetary gain. Overall, it’s a really lovely event where you can discuss experiences and inspire yourself to set goals for the future!

Joel: We also do a Student Spotlight segment where we focus on a student’s work and showcase them! We do photo shoots with them and their work, and we just started video reels, too. They also get a segment in The Griff! This is a cool opportunity for students to show off the work they do outside of class and showcase the talent they don’t necessarily get to show off in class. We also do mixers every month, which are community get-togethers, and they sometimes have a theme, but the goal is to meet students outside of class, get to know each other and have bonding experiences!

SAMU: Wow, that sounds so fun! What would you say to a student who might be scared to attend an event for the first time?

Aldricia: Honestly, I was that person in my first and second year. I was friends with people, but I was too scared actually to go to any of the events. It’s weird thinking about it now because I realized I was being naive about the post-secondary experience. After joining the DSO, I realized there was nothing to be scared about. Everyone who is a part of the DSO are just regular people who are also navigating post-secondary. Even though we look super put together, we aren’t always, and we struggle too!

Joel: Yeah, we are just students who happen to be passionate about creating community! That’s why everyone in our club joined. It’s what we care about and why we are here. Getting involved in the community has been such a help for my personal design work and personal life as well. I’ve made connections that mean a lot to me and have impacted my university experience for the better. So, I think students should give it a go, even if it’s not coming to our events, just spending more time in the design workroom (11-211).

Anthea: A lot of people, especially in the first year, feel that they have to get out of their comfort zone to be a part of the events. I remember when I first heard about the mixers, I was like, “Oh no.” And I was scared to have other students judge my work or critique me. But it’s really not that bad. You might have to push yourself, but once you do and attend the mixers and events, you’ll realize everyone is just like you and has the same feelings.

SAMU: It sounds like you have all gained a lot of experience by joining the DSO and participating in events!

DSO: Yeah! We have made a lot of connections with friends, teachers and industry professionals. People have started to notice us, and teachers have referred us for out-of-class projects and opportunities in ways you wouldn’t expect. We did a community mural for the design workroom, and the design was decided through votes by students on our Instagram! We had a huge group of volunteers help us with the painting process, and it was a lot more involved than we thought it would be, but we are super proud of the work we completed. It makes the workroom feel less scared and more creative and welcoming!

SAMU: What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining a student group?

Joel: Go for it. You will surprise yourself with how much you gain from doing it. It is a worthwhile experience that has made my university experience. You are doing yourself a disservice by not getting involved.

Aldricia: Our club is one that has more commitments than others, but there are a lot of nice, relaxed clubs focused on hobbies and games, which are all good because the goal is to build connections and mingle with people in and out of your program. This also leads to more relationships and learning about people and the world in general, which is sometimes hard to learn when you are navigating your 20s.

Anthea: Yeah, you aren’t going to lose money. You will only gain skills and experience. I’ve had a few different roles in the DSO, and from each one, I’ve learned a lot of skills like managing and organizing on a higher level. As a copywriter, I’ve learned to write correctly, and it really helps me to build on what I’ve been learning at school. I’ve also made a lot of friends and gotten better at working in teams and being more empathetic towards people in your group.

SAMU: Anything you want to say to students before we end?

DSO: Follow us on our Instagram and join our discord! We want to know what the DSO can do for you. We have a lot of ways students can reach out to us, and we have a box in the workroom to take complaints or suggestions about the DSO or the program itself that we can pass on to higher-ups.

You can connect with the Design Student Organization on social media through Instagram @dsoyeg or their discord in their Instagram bio.

Follow SAMU on social media through Instagram (@sa_macewan), Twitter (@SAMacEwan), and Facebook (Students’ Association of MacEwan University) to stay up to date on the latest events, programs, and services from your students’ association.

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