Major: Visual Communication with a minor in Environmental Science
Accomplishment: Helping local businesses through Enactus
Awards: Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship (awarded by the International Tennis Association), 2013 All-American in Tennis, Freeman Award (for academic and athletic achievement)
Mexico City native Sofia Jaramillo’s college of choice had to have two things: a great tennis team and the opportunity to major in Visual Communication.
When Sofia came to Graceland for a campus visit, she was struck both by the unity of the women’s tennis team and the beauty of the Helene Center for the Visual Arts, where, as a Visual Communication student, she would be spending the majority of her time. The visit made clear to Sofia that at Graceland, there were opportunities to excel as both an athlete and an artist that didn’t exist at other schools.
Some of those opportunities have included interning with a professional photographer and being on Graceland’s Enactus team. Enactus (the EN stands for Entrepreneurial; ACT for Action; and US for everyone working towards the common good) is a nonprofit organization that gives students the tools to learn the free enterprise system in a real working situation. As an Enactus team member, Sofia has used her graphic design skills to help local businesses. “We are so image-driven in our society,” said Sofia, “that having a powerful logo is going to make a big difference for a business. If the image of a company isn’t good, then people will think that the product isn’t very good.” Revamping a business’s image presents many challenges for Sofia, allowing her to use the problem-solving skills she’s learned from Graceland’s art faculty. “They teach you how to solve creative problems—and that there’s a huge variety of ways to do it," said Sofia. "Brainstorming is one of the most helpful things I’ve learned. I end up with lots of ideas and solutions, which is very useful for when I’m going out into the real world and working with a client.” And through Enactus, Sofia not only gets the opportunity to use her design skills; she also gets to help people. “I honestly feel like Graceland has changed my life, because it’s helped me become a more responsible human being,” said Sofia. “We are caring for people and working to see a positive change in the world.”
Sofia has also been able to develop her photography skills while at Graceland, working with staff photographer Michael Gruich to capture student life, sports, and events on the Lamoni campus. As a student photographer, Sofia has produced professional-quality images to round out her already impressive portfolio. Learning about photography from Michael “has inspired me to see that anything here is possible.” Her advice to fellow Graceland students: “If there is something you want to pursue outside the classroom, speak out and talk to people that work at GU to help you get there.”
For Sofia, the Graceland women’s tennis team “has really become like a second family to me,” she said. “I never once got homesick since I’ve been here.” What’s more, “I’ve made friends from Hungary, Germany, France and Russia. I never thought I’d get the opportunity to get to know people from so many different cultures.”
Sofia is passionate about using her visual communication skills to preserve ecosystems and the cultures that are dependent upon them. She sees herself working with wildlife at Sea World or promoting conservation with National Geographic magazine; to that end, she is thinking about getting a Master’s degree in Environmental Communication. Thanks to Enactus events like the annual Fall Burn, where students can explore careers by participating in question and answer panels with professionals from many different fields, Sofia feels prepared for her future career. “During Fall Burn, they bring in young professionals you can relate to,” said Sofia. “You see how they became successful, and you see how it’s attainable for yourself.”