The best part is following a specific process to get to the final deliverable, wherein you get feedback from your instructors and peers at every step. The importance of how you got to your final design solution is everything in the design world, and this degree program lays emphasis on just that. Studying VCD at Herron, I feel like I am prepared for the relevant design challenges in today's world.

HERRON: What was one of your most memorable Herron experiences?

VAVHAL: Apart from being a part of Herron, an elite experience in itself, I have many unforgettable memories that I will cherish for life. Choosing one is difficult. My first ever big achievement at Herron was winning the mask design contest. In my sophomore year, I was still learning basic design principles and Adobe Illustrator, so I wasn't very confident that I would stand a chance among the talented students of all years and majors who were also going to participate in the contest. And hence winning this was a huge thing for me and made me trust myself and my design skills.

Another thing out of the many things would definitely be the sense of belongingness. After my academic advisor, Adam Siurek, learned that my parents couldn't accompany me to the Top 100 Outstanding Students Recognition Dinner, he emailed me saying that I wouldn't have to sit alone and that my Herron family would be there cheering for me. These relationships that I've built at Herron, from attending orientation in my first year to feeling at home here in my junior year, enrich my experience of being a part of this institution.

HERRON: You secured a great off-campus internship at a Jack Flash Convenience Store in Illinois. How did you hear about the opportunity, and how are you using your user interface and experience design skills?

VAVHAL: Our VCD chair, Aaron Ganci, posts job openings on our VCD GroupMe, where I first heard about this internship opportunity. I already completed 150 hours working with Jack Flash just before spring break. I wanted to continue with the internship, but to maintain my F-1 visa status as an international student, I couldn't extend my Curricular Practical Training [a type of work authorization] without another academic requirement. The internship experience was fun, and I got a chance to learn new things, especially new programs and applications.

Working on signage was easy as they had an already established design template for all the stores. The new thing was working in Adobe After Effects updating existing ads, creating Watchfire signs in a program called Ignite OP, using applications like Splashtop for accessing PCs of different Jack Flash stores, and SignJet for updating video ad campaigns. Working with Watchfire signs was similar to creating a frame-by-frame animation. I have always been open to experimenting and trying out new stuff for my projects at Herron. This internship has given me the confidence to be adaptable and try my hand at new applications.

HERRON: In 2020, Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD) inducted you into their national honor society, which recognizes the academic excellence of first-year women students. How has your ALD membership impacted you?

VAVHAL: Being a part of Alpha Lambda Delta is an honor. I have attended a few monthly meetings as they provide good information about opportunities to get involved on campus. In fact, I attended one where they talked about the Top 100 applications and explained the process in detail. This session helped me a lot as I worked on mine. Being a part of Alpha Lambda Delta gives me an edge over others when it comes to academics and opens the door for many new opportunities.

HERRON: As a designer, you supported the behind-the-scenes promotion of the 2021 TEDxIUPUI event. What was it like being a member of a diverse collaborative team of students for a significant campus-wide event?

VAVHAL: TEDxIUPUI will always be a noteworthy part of my journey. It was the first time that I used my design skills for something other than coursework and something out there for the whole of IUPUI to see. Also, TEDx is a big name, and I felt responsible for delivering quality work and giving my best shot at whatever was expected of me.

Being in a team was a new experience, too. I collaborated with the team to communicate the marketing strategies efficiently through my designs. I also learned how to work with limitations as we had to stick to TEDx as well as IU brand guidelines. It was a great opportunity to grow as a designer and a team player, and honestly, it felt amazing to be a part of this campus-wide event. I wish it were in-person, but I'll always be grateful for this experience. My biggest lesson was probably to be open to opportunities like these and just go for it without doubting yourself.

HERRON: You've also volunteered as a mentor for the IUPUI Speaker's Lab. What was the most satisfying aspect of mentoring other students?

VAVHAL: After finishing the [Fundamentals of Speech Communication] COMM-R 110 class in spring 2021, we got emails from the Speaker's Lab that they were hiring lab mentors, and anyone with a B grade and above could apply. I applied for it and had an in-person interview when I returned to Indianapolis for offline classes in fall 2021. Being a semi-finalist in the Speech Night Competition might have added weight to my application, and I did well in the course too. It was cool to be in a role I used to take guidance from a few months ago. It felt like "this on-campus resource helped me a lot, now let me pay it forward."

I also really enjoyed the offline experience of this job after doing a whole year of college online. The most satisfying part was being able to guide students through online and offline sessions and helping them improve and do better in their speech course. I also tried to be as careful, on-point, and aware as possible while giving feedback. It was a challenging task as it was my first time being a mentor, but I attempted to put in my sincere efforts to do justice to this position.

HERRON: What does being a Top 100 student mean to you?

VAVHAL: IUPUI has been a dream come true, and being a Top 100 student has made this journey even more special — a journey full of lessons, changes, personal accomplishments, and growth. Being here has broadened my horizons and made me a better, more accepting person. Besides, I am getting an education I have always dreamed of and I'm pursuing what I love: art and design. I feel blessed to be able to keep improving in my field of study in beautiful ways at Herron. I am so grateful for this honor, and it feels incredible to be recognized alongside exceptional fellow students. To more successes and adventures!

See more of Ria Vavhal's work via her online portfolio or Instagram account.