UC, local nonprofit win in creative blitz

University of Cincinnati increases its urban impact through collaboration with local high school artists and national employers

Hundreds of UC design students, local high school students and national employers came together at the University of Cincinnati to provide real-world work experience while also giving back to the community.

Earlier this month during the fourth annual Engaging Emerging Creatives (E2C) campus recruiting experience, UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) helped 400 design students come together with some of the country’s top employers for two days of intensive collaboration — including an effort to pay it forward to a local nonprofit.

“E2C is an immersive, collaborative event that brings together representatives from companies around the nation to interact and build professional relationships with each other and our students in creative disciplines,” says Aaron Bradley, associate professor of UC Creative, Culture and Social Impact Initiatives.

“During this two-day event UC students get to work collaboratively with peers and creative professionals on a sprint-style design project and build pathways to co-op and future career opportunities.”

More than a co-op or career fair, Bradley describes E2C as a “premiere recruiting event” and a way for employers to work alongside students across disciplines from the institution with the No. 1 co-op program in the country among public universities. This pursuit of innovation and effort to make an urban impact on the community aligns with UC’s Next Lives Here strategic direction.

As hundreds of tables lined two floors of DAAP’s hallways in a beehive of interactive collaboration, more than 400 students and employers worked in teams on ways to solve a common design problem.

“Students are randomly placed on teams and meet for the first time at the event kick-off," says Bradley. "They have to quickly make introductions, understand each other’s strengths and perspectives and create an action plan to finish a collaborative design project in less than four hours."

Employers personally observe how individual students work together as a team and approach problem solving, which Bradley says gives them an advantage over simply looking at a portfolio or resume.

This year’s project is unique because organizers integrated creative help from Cincinnati Pulblic Schools (CPS) students who are involved with Cincinnati Arts and Technology Studios, or CATS. CATS helps high schoolers earn fine arts and elective credits so they can graduate on time and build skills to succeed in life. CPS Strong is also a Next Lives Here initiative to increase the number of students who attend UC from Cincinnati.

Students stand around a table of design schematics.

UC DAAP design students collaborate with employers and Cincinnati Arts and Technology Studios (CATS) students over design schematics at the E2C Creative Blitz. photo/provided

“It’s extremely rewarding and inspiring to watch as we literally take over two floors of the building with more than 400 students all working on something that will have a direct impact on our city,” says Bradley.

A woman sits at a table of students in a discussion.

CATS and UC design students collaborate over design strategies for more efficient studio space. photo/Ravenna Rutledge/UC Creative Services

Brooke Sallas, CATS director of marketing and communications, says many of their students are at-risk teenagers. She describes their work, which occurs in Cincinnati’s Longworth Hall, as a positive way to unlock their self-worth and their potential through art and creativity. 

What started 17 years ago as an initiative to raise the Cincinnati Public School senior graduation rate is having success, with 96% of CATS students graduating in 2019.

“As part of this year’s E2C Creative Blitz, UC design students are helping our students reimagine the CATS learning environment,” says Sallas. “DAAP adjunct professor of planning Ryan Newman came in several months ago and created schematic drawings of our current space for our high schoolers to work with toward evaluating and reinventing the CATS space.”

Bridging the college gap

College man sits at table with another student pointing to design schematics.

CATS student Jarod Strube discusses ways the space can be redesigned. photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

Man sits at table with DAAP students looking at schematics.

CATS board member Bill Lecher discusses workspace issues with DAAP designers. photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

It wasn’t long before toiling over schematics for how the space currently functions turned into looking for ways to make the space work better. Sallas says this was the first time many of these high schoolers visited a college and were face-to-face with designers and employers in a real-world creative setting.

“Since we have one of the best universities right here in our hometown, especially with a program like DAAP that is in the top five in national rankings and known throughout the world, we take our students to UC’s campuses for our annual college tour week.”

“It's extremely rewarding and inspiring to watch as we literally take over two floors of the building with more than 400 students all working on something that will have a direct impact on our city.”

Aaron Bradley UC associate professor

Close-up of a hand written page as part of an architecture design.

As part of the architectural design assignment, handwritten sentiments express the positive aspects of using studio space in Cincinnati's Longworth Hall. photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

Two women stand together at a DAAP co-op function.

Left, former CATS student Destiny Bomar is now a third-year UC communications and marketing student and executive staff member of UC's Undergraduate Student Government shown with Laura Greene who is the CATS director of education. photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

Throughout the last four years of collaboration, CATS has taken advantage of scholarships created by DAAP associate director of fashion design Laurie Wilson and Procter and Gamble design director Tysonn Betts for deserving underprivileged students.

Man sits at table with students at UC.

Former CATS student Gift Mayambi is now a DAAP industrial design student and participant in UC's E2C Creative Blitz. photo/Laura Greene

CATS CEO Clara Martin sees the DAAP alliance as a rewarding opportunity for many lucky high school students.

“UC students came monthly to do creative activities with our students and, as a result, awarded scholarships to two or three students each year to go to DAAP’s summer camp,” says Martin.

Former CATS student Destiny Bomar, now a third-year UC communications and marketing student, credits the CATS DAAP alliance for her success getting into college and her exposure to the creative world of marketing.

Several tables of students line the hallway inside DAAP during UC's E2C Creative Blitz.

UC design and CATS high school art students collaborate with national employers over design strategies. photo/provided

“I owe everything to [DAAP]. Without it I would not be where I am today — alumni, woman entrepreneur, DAAP design adjunct and a proud parent of current DAAP design student Audrey Eyman,” says Kelly Kolar-Eyman, CATS board member, former UC DAAP student and now CEO of her own design company, Kolar Design.  Kolar-Eyman was named a Women’s Business Enterprise Star by Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

“How do you get to be award winner of the year? You go to this place, that’s how you do it,” she adds. 

While UC’s design programs are widely respected as providing students with a career advantage, professor Bradley also regards student participation in the E2C Creative Blitz as a catalyst for social impact and inspiration to change the world for the better.

“Our DAAP and CATS students alike want to know that they can make a unique contribution to the world,” says Bradley. “And if they are learning skills through their degree that contribute to a building a better world, that’s a pretty empowering thing.”


Featured image at top: Aaron Bradley, UC associate professor of UC Creative, Culture and Social Impact Initiatives and Kelly Kolar-Eyman, CATS board member and CEO of Kolar Designs collaborate with UC design and CATS students during UC's E2C Creative Blitz. photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

Group of eight people stand together in front of UC DAAP.

Cincinnati Arts and Technology Studios board members stand outside DAAP during the E2C Creative Blitz. Among them are UC's Ryan Newman, DAAP adjunct professor of planning (back right) and DAAP grad Kelly Kolar-Eyman, CEO of Kolar Designs (front, center). photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

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