Serena Ruiz looks through a handbook for copy editors, one of her career aspirations. Danna Miramontes | The Poly Post

Students leave artistic impact on CPP

By Danna Miramontes, May 14, 2024

As the school year comes to a close, it is important to highlight the achievements of this year’s graduating class.  

The College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences and the College of Environmental Design have to bid farewell to, according to certain faculty members, talented students who have accomplished great feats at Cal Poly Pomona and will continue to do so outside of the university. These three students have been praised by their teachers and are highly driven to showcase what all the arts have to offer. 

Jennifer Avila, a visual communication design student, is set to graduate this week. She has juggled two part-time jobs, 12 units every semester and the responsibility of helping her parents at the swap meet throughout her time at CPP. She does not plan on slowing down anytime soon.  

She has been a part of many different organizations at CPP. Avila was president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, an organization that helped her and fellow students connect with others in similar fields. 

“We learn how to network and how to speak with alumni who worked in the industry,” said Avila. “We’re more really hands-on when it comes to creating digital assets for a client. So, yearly we have a Design-a-Thon event.” 

The Design-a-Thon is an event that lasts for 24 hours in which students design visual materials for non-profit organizations. This year, they acquired two sponsorships from American Institute of Graphic Arts, Los Angeles and Employee of the Month for a total of $350.

Jennifer Avila next to her display of design assets she created for Industry Day. Danna Miramontes | The Poly Post

“We always reach out to nonprofits that are in need of help,” said Avila. “Last year, we had Friends In Deed, which helped with a homeless shelter, and they needed assets like Instagram posts or brochures to share more about their nonprofit or even marketing materials that they request.” 

Avila participated in the senior exhibition art show along with many of her classmates. Her booth was adorned with handmade stickers, keychains, a set of trading cards and a portfolio of her work. She had copies of her business cards and resumes set on the table. On Industry Day, the students met with professionals in different fields and showed the work in their exhibition.   

Career-wise, Avila has been pursuing different avenues to express her talent. She loves collecting makeup packaging, noting how they are designed and how they can sometimes be compact and biodegradable. It is something she wants to investigate further and possibly pursue a career in. 

“But also, just anything that makes you feel more beautiful or more healthy looking or just making you feel more confident, that’s something that I want to work on,” said Avila. 

Avila recently interviewed for a part-time art teacher position and has two interviews for Beauty Creations Cosmetics Company lined up. She advised others to not limit themselves when it comes to pursuing careers in the art field. There’s so much one can do with that degree. 

“Putting your foot out there and trying to do internships or jobs, and you get them, and you experience them, it gives you kind of like a trial of what you might like or what you don’t like,” said Avila. “So, I think that’s my best advice is to try something. Even though you don’t think it’s something you would see yourself doing, try it out and see if you like it.” 

Ellen Shaw, a music and composition student, is grateful for the time she has spent at CPP and all the people she has met on her journey.  

“I’ve made so many connections here and met so many people and have so much knowledge instilled in me,” said Shaw. “I feel really lucky, and I think I chose the right place. It’s been enjoyable, and it’s bittersweet to leave.” 

Evan Ware, a music professor with a doctorate in composition and music theory, facilitated Shaw’s interest in music theory. Ware told her to pursue music theory, so she decided to major in music and composition, which she believed would help her with music theory in the future.

Ellen Shaw works on music composition as part of her degree requirements. Danna Miramontes | The Poly Post

“At first, I was kind of set on being a teacher, but then I met my mentor, Dr. Evan Ware, who kind of pushed me in the direction of music theory and was like, ‘I think this is what you should be doing,’” said Shaw. 

At times, Shaw had difficulties with writing and composing music. She felt she was forcing creativity out of herself. But through these challenges, she learned more about the creative process. 

“I, especially with my music theory homework, learned to love the work that I was doing,” said Shaw. “I don’t dread it, and that’s how I know I’m doing the right things. I enjoy going home and working on it and spending time on it.” 

Shaw was a part of the music board for two years. Shaw oversaw it and allocated the money received from ASI to two different ensembles.  

“We help them spend that money and do paperwork,” said Shaw. “I was a representative, and then I was secretary and then I was president. My job was making sure that everything ran smoothly, and that people were paid, and people were doing their job.” 

Shaw was also a music tutor at the Learning Resource Center. She tutored many different students from many different classes and explained she was able to tutor any class in which she’d gotten a B or above. 

“It’s really fun to have people come in and they don’t really understand, but they want to understand and that’s what’s so valuable,” said Shaw. “You know you’re in this position where you are giving them knowledge and helping them understand something. I’ve gotten better at explaining things over the years, which has been really valuable.” 

Shaw is planning to attend Michigan State University after graduating from CPP to obtain her master’s in music theory. She acquired a graduate assistantship and a fellowship at Michigan State, which means they are paying for her to go there, Shaw said.  

“It was my top choice school,” said Shaw. “And when I got in, I was like, this is it. This is exactly where I want to be.’ And then, I hope to, after that, get my Ph.D. in music theory, so this is kind of like a stepping stone to that, and I’m really excited.” 

She hopes others see her success as an inspiration to pursue higher education in the music field. 

Serena Ruiz, a literary studies student, has always had an interest in writing and English, but teaching was out of the question for her. She wanted to pursue something outside of what was expected of an English major.  

“It is kind of sad that everyone just thinks that if you’re an English major, you’re immediately going into teaching when there’s so much more to it,” said Ruiz. 

Throughout her time at CPP, Ruiz worked primarily in the César Chávez Center for Higher Education. For two years, she worked as a social justice leader, where she advocated for cultural matters in the university and helped organize many events and discussions. The idea behind her work was to showcase the culture on campus. 

“If you ever go into the César Chávez Center in the hallway, you can see where they framed the newspaper story from the students protesting to gain the Cultural Center, specifically the César Chávez Center, and then the others followed,” Ruiz said. “So, we were born out of social justice and recognition, and we would try to host discussions and advocate for the cultural prolonging on campus.” 

As important as this work was for Ruiz, she decided to venture into different options, such as the Learning Resource Center. As a writing center tutor, Ruiz felt she was taking a step toward what she wanted to do career-wise. 

I wanted to join the publishing industry, and I felt like editing and working on papers was a little bit more experience than reading only emails,” said Ruiz. 

Ruiz wants to pursue a career in copy editing and has been making strides toward that goal since last August as a copy editor for an author. She attributes these successes to her ability to have a firm grasp of what to expect after she graduates.  

“I know the publishing industry is competitive,” said Ruiz. “I definitely have to curate my client list and take different opportunities. I’m just grateful for the opportunities that have been presented to me.” 

She hopes people can see how much an English degree can offer, as well as the scope of knowledge and opportunities it can provide to a student.

Serena Ruiz looks through a handbook for copy editors, one of her career aspirations. Danna Miramontes | The Poly Post

“Language is part of our lives in every aspect,” said Ruiz. “How we communicate digitally in person and the books we read, and in the emails, the websites; it’s everything. And it gets thrown to the side because people take it for granted, and they don’t realize that there’s opportunities.” 

These three students have high hopes for the continuous prosperity of arts at CPP despite, according to Shaw, the obscurity the CLASS department faces  

“I tell people I’m a music major and they’re like, ‘I didn’t even know we had that here,’” said Shaw. “I’ve had a great education. I’m going to grad school. I’ve done really well, and I think just because the department isn’t the most well-known doesn’t mean that it’s not important or that it shouldn’t get as much recognition. Art students are taken less seriously for sure, especially in academic spaces. But it’s just as academic as whatever it is you’re doing.”

Feature image courtesy of Danna Miramontes

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