School of Art Design Students Gifted Membership to Leading Professional Organization for Design

Novo Studio

All 72 design students in the School of Art's graphic design program are now officially members of the AIGA, the professional association for design. 

Thanks to the endowment established last year by the generous gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation to the U of A's J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences to create the School of Art, AIGA membership fees were paid this year for all design students.

As members of the AIGA student group affiliated with the active and energetic AIGA Northwest Arkansas chapter, the students will make professional connections and learn from professionals in the area.

"Being part of AIGA has given me a glimpse into the thriving community of designers in our area, and having my membership renewal paid for was such a wonderful surprise," said Gina Smith, a graphic design student in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program. "The relationships we are building with local professionals is encouraging and it is incredibly meaningful to receive both the financial and a professional support from our school and donors."

AIGA is the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design. There are 70 chapters and more than 25,000 members throughout the United States. The AIGA Northwest Arkansas chapter is led by president Tim Walker, principal and design director at local design firm DOXA Inc. 

All AIGA members have access to enhanced professional development, powerful tools and resources and events and programing. The organization advocates for greater understanding of the value of design and designers. They hope to inspire designers and the public by sharing exciting work and engaging in thoughtful discussions on pressing issues.

"Our AIGA Northwest Arkansas chapter’s long-term vision is for an inclusive and design-driven community,” said Walker. “We’re honored to partner with the School of Art and its students and faculty, providing professional growth and community service opportunities, all with an aim to see that vision realized. Their students are the future of our profession, not only in our region but well beyond, and when you meet those students it’s easy to see that future will be bright."

The graphic design faculty prioritized paying the AIGA memberships for students as they reviewed new opportunities made possible by the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation gift.

"One of the primary goals of the gift is to provide financial support to students," said Tom Hapgood, head of the graphic design program. "We knew paying the AIGA membership fees would provide financial relief, inclusive opportunities and further education through professional development for all students as they become designers."

The graphic design program is one of the fastest growing areas in the School of Art. This fall student enrollment grew 26 percent from last year. Students apply for the Bachelor of Fine Art in graphic design after completing intensive foundation courses their freshman year. 

The newly redesigned graphic design studio classrooms are found in the Fine Arts Center on the second floor. The space is designed as an open and collaborative working environment, a common theme throughout design curriculum.

Students describe having access to a strong AIGA chapter is an invaluable resource for any designer looking to continue improving and expanding their design skills and styles. 

"I am so grateful to the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation for giving each design student at the university the opportunity to become a member of the Northwest Arkansas AIGA chapter," said Kaylie Mitchell, an M.F.A. student. "It will certainly allow the growing design community to flourish and continue producing amazing talent for Northwest Arkansas."


Kayla Crenshaw, director of communications
School of Art


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