About the AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship
The AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship is awarded to a student who uses a wheelchair or mobility scooter and attends college full time. One of the requirements for receiving the AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship is to provide a response to our essay question.
This year's scholarship recipient is Margaret Andersen of California Institute of the Arts; her response to the essay question is printed below.
2013 Essay Question:
What goals do you have for your career/life, why do you have those goals, and what inspires you to achieve them?
When I graduated from college with a degree in Humanities and a handful of Studio Art credits, I was met with the same challenge that my fellow Liberal Arts majors faced: we knew a lot about the world on paper, but we had no real-world skills. My situation was made all the more complicated, for while my peers were satisfied to work in the hospitality industry, I have been a wheelchair user since age twelve, and therefore would not make a very successful waitress or bartender. I needed to find a job that would pay well, be creatively and intellectually stimulating, but required little physical demand. Enter the Santa Fe Community College, where I spent the next year learning the basic skills I would need to become a graphic designer.
After receiving my Certificate in Graphic and Interactive Design, I moved to Austin, Texas where I freelanced for several diverse, small businesses and non-profits. I found myself gravitating towards design jobs that supported social and environmental causes in some capacity, whether is was coding HTML for an online literacy program or designing educational brochures for an eco-gardening company to help inform the public about the benefits of composting and organic soil amendments. It was through my experiences with these organizations that I actually considered a career in conservation or social work, but I was always drawn back to the design process, still wishing though that there was some way to marry the visual work I produce with social action.
I first began thinking this was possible after watching the events of the Arab Spring unfold so rapidly, and learning that the strength of its momentum was largely attributed to digital activism. Social change through technology is unique to the current era because mobile devices, Internet access and social media have never before been more readily available on a mass scale. Seeing real political change take place because of these new modalities is incredibly inspiring, and it is one of the reasons I have made it my goal as a designer to support human rights through technology, and help to improve the efficiency of civic issues, urban development, and aid marginalized groups within my own community through design.
What I love about design is the possibilities that can develop from problem solving and creative thinking. As a wheelchair user, I am met with architectural barriers or public service inefficiencies everyday, but as a designer, I can take these challenges and use them to find solutions for people facing similar situations, and improve the lives of able-bodied individuals as well. The principles of Universal Design, and product designers that are elevating the aesthetics of mobility aids are other aspects of design that inspire me to move forward on this career path. I am currently enrolled in the MFA program for Graphic Design at the California Institute of the Arts, and I am confident my time spent in this graduate program will help me to produce work that creates a positive social impact.