Acknowledging the social isolation that comes from the intense ArtCenter student experience, Fall 2020 Student Leadership Award Winner Abigail Dergarzarian was searching for community when she started an AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Design) students’ chapter, which eventually merged with the existing Graphic Design Social club. She credits her three terms as president of the student AIGA chapter as providing a stepping stone to her eventual involvement in Student Government representing the Graphic Design department. It was there she found a community of peers willing to listen, collaborate and approach issues with awareness and sensitivity.
Working on a campaign to destigmatize food insecurity on campus helped her develop empathetic leadership qualities, which she drew on during the Black Lives Matters protests. “The movement had been weighing on my heart heavily and reposting informative social media posts only made me feel performative and quite honestly overwhelmed,” Abby recalled. Noticing an onslaught of information being posted but not organized or collected, she started a Google doc which developed into a resource that she was able to share with the entire ArtCenter community and she watched it develop into a robust collection of facts, figures, art, literature and history.
Abby has also been a vital ingredient in new student orientation—she led leadership workshops, participated on panels and, for the Fall 2020 entering class, assisted in the development and roll out of a new virtual orientation platform. In this role, she assisted with organizing and instructing over 40 student orientation leaders and led the production of eleven educational videos, each created by groups of students leaders.
According to her peers, Abby “balances lighthearted energy with honesty and critical thinking, and that makes for a great work environment when she’s in the room.”
Academically, she participated in a Designstorm for Adidas on the future of movement and technology, which resulted in a pitch to a board room of over fifty established designers. She was also selected to work on a 14-week sponsored studio for IMVU, a digital avatar platform, where students studied the relationship of personal expression and AR/VR technology within a web-based context. This project was also pitched to an actual team and now lives in the real world.
She received an Honorable Mention in the Cumulus Green 2020 competition for her role designing a bio-digester built from recycled objects that used methane gas to produce power. That project helped solidify her resolve to take responsibility as a designer to work tirelessly to minimize the physical pollution of projects to create a better Earth for future generations.