The University of Richmond Magazine & My Gratitude

Carrie Walters University of Richmond Magazine Fall 2017

This week, the Autumn issue of the University of Richmond Magazine arrives in mailboxes with my face on the cover. Obviously, I'm thrilled. But my feelings run much deeper than that. I tried to sum up my gratitude and realized I couldn't do so without sharing a little story. So what better time than now.

Side note: This is a completely different topic than what I spoke about with Kim Catley, who interviewed me for the magazine. I highly encourage you to check out her much more well-written piece, which I've also linked below.

No water required

Article by Kim Catley. 
Photos by Gordon Schmidt.

Read the full article here.

Good things come from changing the plan

I owe a lot to the University of Richmond. 

20 years ago I transferred to UR after a disastrous freshman year that most definitely did not go as planned. I distinctly remember sitting across from Dean Bettenhausen, the dean of the business school, reviewing my credits, and having him tell me that while my standing within my major was ahead of schedule, I had plenty to fill outside of the b-school. 

"Why?" I asked. 
"Because this is a liberal arts University, Carrie!" he quipped.

Apparently, this was something I hadn't fully considered. I had a plan—and a year at Wharton had not helped my mindset. I had convinced myself that being better at math and computers would give me an edge, so I had taken extra levels of calculus over the summer, was enrolled in Physics for majors that semester at UR, and signed up to work for information services my first week on campus. If hashtags existed in 1997, mine would have been #nerd. There was no wiggle room in the plan, and surely that was enough variety, right?

"Do you like music? Do you like art?"
"I like art, but that just seems like a waste of money."
"Well, so would not graduating because you're short on credits."

Fair enough.

And with that, I was granted permission to try something unplanned. I walked into Duane Keiser's Intro to Painting a few months later feeling totally out of my element, but for the first time maybe ever, free. There weren't any tests; there wasn't any competition, no one had any expectations for how I was supposed to perform. There was just learning and trying. I loved every minute of it.  

I didn't realize it then, but this was the turning point. I spent the rest of my three years at UR finding extra spots in my schedule to fill with painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, and art history. When I met with the dean my senior year and told him I'd figured out a way to work in a studio art minor, he chuckled. Then I told him how I'd been applying it to concepts in my operations management and database design classes and thought we should be doing more with e-commerce, and he handed me an application for a grant. 

One day in the painting studio I talked to Duane about my business school work. Seeing a parallel, he asked me if I'd ever thought about graphic design. 

Most definitely not the plan.

But despite my lack of a design degree, Duane, Dean B, my manager at information services convinced the admissions staff at SCAD that I'd be a good candidate for their master's program. 

What a great graduation gift!

The night before UR graduation, celebrating with my parents. (I had already gotten my art school haircut.)

The night before UR graduation, celebrating with my parents.
(I had already gotten my art school haircut.)

So why am I sharing this story now? 

Early in my career I interviewed for a job at an ad agency that was on the hunt for an art director who would be responsible for redesigning a publication. It sounded like a dream job. I loved magazines, and I had always wanted to work in advertising. During the interview, they asked me how I went from UR to SCAD, and I recounted this same story (more or less).

One of them asked: "What was the painting professor's name?" I told her, and she said: "You're kidding me?" That's when I met Duane's wife, and my new creative director, Rosemary.

And then they told me I'd be designing the University of Richmond Magazine.

Talk about a sign.

I couldn't find any of the old Alumni Magazine's I designed, but I also worked on the Law Magazine for a year, including this issue!

I couldn't find any of the old Alumni Magazine's I designed, but I also worked on the Law Magazine for a year, including this issue!

I spent three years learning the ropes from Rosemary, reconnected with a former UR classmate who would one day become my business partner, and met a colleague who today I happily refer to as my spirit animal.   

Eventually, I was ready to put my business degree to use and set out on my own. But even when you don't have a boss there's no stopping how trying life as a designer can be. There will always be feedback to decipher; there will always be revisions to make. Sometimes, projects have no end date!

After years managing many clients and projects, I needed an outlet. Designs I could control—with finished products—posters, cookbooks, and now, flowers. 

A change of plans.

It is an absolute honor that it's this work that currently graces the cover of the very magazine that helped start my career, from the University that made that career possible.

As a 39-year-old it seems slightly crazy to start a new venture, to take a departure from the plan. But if I learned anything from UR, it's just that. There might be something really great in the unplanned. 

I went to the University of Richmond to earn a business degree, but it was there that I learned to listen to my creative side, to take risks, and to be myself. And for that, I will always be grateful. 

Thank you, Kim Catley, for telling my story. Thank you, Gordon Schmidt, for the amazing photos. And thank you, UR, for everything.