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IMPACT: Inside Commencement Week 2014

Posted May 12, 2014 in Public

Here at KCAD, our greatest pleasure comes from seeing the talents of our students develop over the course of their studies. They come to us with impressive creative skills, but they leave us as artists and designers who understand how to create larger impact with their work. Each year, we dedicate an entire week to celebrating the scope of that transformation before we send our graduates out into the world to make their mark.

Here’s a look inside the amazing energy of Commencement Week 2014.

Annual Student Exhibition

A favorite KCAD tradition, the Annual Student Exhibition once again transformed the entire campus into one massive gallery, showcasing top-notch art and design work from each of the College’s graduate and undergraduate programs. Students, friends, family, staff, faculty, and community members gathered at the exhibition’s opening reception to marvel at the incredible range of talent on display.

The amount of dedication, passion, and perseverance demonstrated by all my fellow students astounds me,” said Jeen Na, a freshman transfer student who experienced the event for the first time. “I've never met so many amazing and ambitious people.”

Crowds explore the 2014 Annual Student Exhibition (click to enlarge)

Housed in The Fed Galleries, The MFA Thesis exhibition offered an intriguing view into the final projects of the 13 students who completed their graduate studies in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, and Photography.

A visitor takes in MFA graduate Salvador Jiménez Flores’ thesis exhibition, “I Am Not Who You Think I Am" (click to enlarge)

The Fed Galleries also featured a special display of work from KCAD’s 2014 Excellence Award winners, those graduating students who’ve exhibited a rare level of mastery and accomplishment within their chosen field of study. The Excellence Award represents the pinnacle of KCAD student achievement, and this year’s 15 winners were beyond deserving of the honor.

Artwork from the 2014 Excellence Award winners (click to enlarge)

VIP Alumni Event

Alumni, donors, stakeholders, and community members were out in full force at a special reception celebrating the strong connections KCAD has forged through its dynamic alumni organization, community initiatives, industry interactions, and collaborative partnerships.

Alumni and VIP event attendees mingle and take in the 2014 Annual Student Exhibition (click to enlarge)

Old friends were reunited and new friendships were formed in a gathering that reaffirmed the power of art and design to unite people across generations and disciplines. When the mingling wrapped up, the attendees took to the halls to explore the Annual Student Exhibition together.

Alumni converse and connect in The Fed Galleries (click to enlarge)

Honorary Doctorate Visit

Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the 2014 recipient of KCAD’s Honorary Doctor of Arts degree, visited with students from the Fashion Studies program, explored their work, and talked with them about the importance of believing in unique talent and individual creativity.

Steven Kolb (right) and Pamella Roland DeVos (left) (click to enlarge)

Along with Pamella Roland DeVos, prominent fashion designer, philanthropist, and namesake of KCAD’s School of Fashion, Kolb helped the students get a better idea of how to break into the fashion industry when they graduate.

Fashion Studies students listen eagerly to Steve Kolb and Pamella Roland DeVos (click to enlarge)

“What’s so unique about American fashion is that we reach out a hand to new designer’s to help them move forward,” Kolb said. “It’s about giving and supporting that family.”

Excellence Awards

This year’s Excellence Award winners were officially honored amidst faculty, friends, and family during a ceremony that was a candid display of the kind of close-knit relationships that are cultivated at KCAD and a testament to the connectivity of art and design.

Inside the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building for the 2014 Excellence Awards (click to enlarge)

Program chairs introduced each winner in a series of inspired speeches that were often funny and always genuine in conveying the personal and artistic qualities that enabled these students to stand apart from their peers.

When it was the students’ turn to speak, they took care to thank those people – teachers, loved ones, and peers – who helped them to push their boundaries, experiences new things, grow their talents, and achieve the extraordinary.


Held inside the beautiful Fountain Street Church, this year’s commencement proceedings gave the 2014 graduates a proper send-off as they entered the next chapter of their lives.

A serene sight: the graduates and their loved ones await the start of the commencement ceremony (click to enlarge)

Valedictorian and Interior Design graduate Courtney Wierzbicki kicked things off with a speech that challenged her fellow graduates to never stop dreaming. Determined to be a designer from a young age, Courtney arrived at KCAD full of passion and hungry for opportunity, and now she stands as someone who seized every opportunity to make the most of her education.

The graduates make the procession from KCAD to Fountain Street Church (click to enlarge)

Honorary Doctorate recipient Steven Kolb took the stage next, advising students to embrace the unexpected and to follow their hearts. As someone who never intended to work in the fashion industry, Kolb nonetheless merged his non-profit experience with his passion for social issues to forge a successful and impactful career in fashion.

A group of graduates strikes a pose post-ceremony (click to enlarge)

As the graduates strode across the stage to accept their diplomas, examples of their work flashed on the screen as a final reminder of both their amazing individual talents and the inspiring creative diversity of the KCAD ecosystem. The images were more than a record of past accomplishments; they were an indication of the bright future that lies ahead of each and every individual who donned a KCAD cap and gown.

A breathtaking view of the crowd during the ceremony (click to enlarge)

In the last speech of the day, retiring Sculpture and Functional Art professor David Greenwood, who was honored with the title of Professor Emeritus, summed it all up perfectly when he made two requests of the graduates: never lose your sense of curiosity and never stop learning.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2014! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.