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Amber Billings, a sophomore and graphic design student at the University of Minnesota, entered a national design contest last spring - and won! The task was to design a pack for Orbit gum. Her signature and design will appear on limited edition packs of Orbit's Melon Remix gum through February 2012. (See the photo below for Amber's design.)

Amber has been an artist and designer for her entire life and loves inspiring others with her work. Amber credits her academic adviser at the U of M for letting her know about the Orbit contest last spring; Amber figured she had nothing to lose and had high hopes for her chances to win the $5,000 in prize money awarded to the eight contest winners. 

Amber's idea for the winning design was inspired by other Orbit packs as well as from design techniques that she has learned in her College of Design classes at the University of Minnesota. She began by looking at newer Orbit pack designs to figure out what the judges were looking for; she realized that geometric shapes and patterns were very popular. Using concepts and ideas that she developed in her color theory class, Amber created the eye-catching, winning design. 

Amber chose the U of M for the four-year college experience, the location, and the excellent design program. Her ultimate dream is to someday have a job that she loves. As a student, Amber counts on her friends to be her motivation and support. They have become her "second family" in the transition from high school to college. Additionally, the energizing spirit of Amber's professors and instructors at the U of M encourage her to do her best work every day.

Amber's advice to other students who are seeking a creative path in life is simple: "You just have to make sure that what you're doing is what you want to be doing. If you like what you've created, others will too." 

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College of Design (CDes) students at the University of Minnesota were able to gain valuable hands-on experience last semester while supporting Haitian children in need. The U of M students assembled clothing for children in Haiti who are suffering without basic needs after the earthquake of 2010. Sherri Gahring's Apparel Design class partnered with U of M alumna Karen Moen, a board advocate for Healing Haiti, to assemble more than 80 garments for children at the Grace Village orphanage in Titanyean, Haiti.


Moen asked that the design students make garments for the orphanage to help support service-learning coursework on campus. The students were able to gain experience in assembly and design, while also making a difference in the world and helping those in need. In total, the 27 students created 42 sundress and 43 jam shorts. Karen Moen and her team delivered the clothes to Haiti in late November.


For more information, visit the College of Design's website, or visit the CDes Facebook page to see photos of the students, as well as photos of the Haitian children.


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If you've been on a campus visit to the University of Minnesota this year, then you have may have noticed that Northrop Memorial Auditorium is currently under construction. In February 2011, construction workers began to deconstruct the delicate building. The renovations that will be completed in August 2013 will make Northrop more usable for the events and needs of the University or Minnesota campus. As the second most recognized icon in Minnesota, it is important to preserve the historic value of Northrop Memorial Auditorium during this process.

Northrop was built in 1929 as a gathering place for performing arts, academic ceremonies, and major civic events. Prior to the deconstruction, Northrop was used for only 51 events each year, and held seating for 4,800 people.  The restoration will feature a 2,750-seat hall, which is the optimal size for acoustics and will therefore bring more of the world's great artists to the U of M.

Additionally, Northrop will house the University Honors Program, the Institute for Advanced Study, and Innovation by Design. The new Northrop will focus more on the students of the University; in the past, student contact with the building has been minimal. The renovation will also increase the amount of public study space on the East Bank campus by 50%. This will bring a whole new energy to the building, as it will be available to students day and night for study.

The work to the interior of the performance hall is already underway. Northrop is a beautiful center point on our campus; I look forward to seeing the outcome of this project in my time here at the University of Minnesota! Watch the video below for more information about how Northrop has changed through the years.

Finals week is finally here! After all of the hard work that University of Minnesota students, (including myself) have put into our classes this semester, there's just one, culminating test in each of our classes that is holding us back from winter break.

I would be lying if I said that finals week wasn't difficult or stressful at times, but there are so many resources on the U of M campus to help students during this hectic time of the semester. In fact, most of these resources are available to students year-round.

• The professor and teaching assistant office hours are a great resource to students, not just during finals week but throughout the semester as well. Every professor is willing to spend time with students who need help understanding the concepts of the course. These are especially useful in classes that are larger that 20 students. Larger lectures typically provide more office hours where students can have one-on-one time with professors.

• The libraries on campus are open 24 hours during finals week. My favorite library to study is in Walter Library, which is also the largest library on campus. Additionally, Walter offers peer-tutoring services in the SMART Learning Commons, which is a one-stop resource for students needing research, technology, or writing help. The peer-tutors in the SMART Learning Commons were especially useful to me when I was taking Calculus last year.

• The Center for Writing on campus is very helpful for writing intensive classes, which often require students to write essays for the final. Throughout the entire year, students are welcome to schedule an appointment with a writing consultant for advice and support.

After studying as much as we can in preparation for finals week, students on the University of Minnesota campus have a tradition of tossing pennies into the Coffman Memorial Union fountain for good luck. Watch the video below to see this tradition in action, and wish me luck with my finals!

At first glance, the seasonal animated e-card sent to the extended University community by President Eric Kaler and his wife Karen 
appears to have been created by a professional. In fact, it was actually the work of two U of M students: Mari Mihai, a third-year graphic design undergrad, and Adam Zahller Brown, a first-year grad student in music composition. 

As a part of celebrating their first winter as the U of M presidential couple, Karen and Eric Kaler made a splash with their beautifully constructed piece of student art, which was sent to faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents of students, and selected friends--more than 100,000 people in all.
 The 30-second greeting card is complete with falling snow, a snow globe, a crackling fire, and a crescendo of holiday-evoking music.

Designing a winter greeting
Mari Mihai began the card design by sketching an interior scene with a fireplace and mantel and scanning it into a computer. She then painted it and, on a suggestion from the Kalers, added images of all five University campus mascots as mantel portraits. 

Meanwhile, Adam Zahller Brown worked at creating sounds that evoked a magical holiday mood. He created a unique sound, while keeping in mind the typical "bells and trumpets" sounds of typical holiday music, by utilizing unusual instruments such as cymbals, a celesta, a Navajo ceder flute, and recorders.

About the artists
Mihai, born in Romania, moved to Minnesota at the age of 8. Mihai chose the U of M as her college choice for its reputation and location. She says, "I knew I wanted graphic design, but I didn't want to go out of state. I wanted to be near my family because we've shared so much." Mihai has a College of Design Legacy Scholarship, among others, and is a part of the University Honors Program. 

Brown, who aspires "to write challenging concert music," is a graduate assistant in the music theory program. He came to the University's School of Music to work with composer and professor James Dillon, whose music he has long admired.

It is inspiring to think that two college students like myself have worked together to create something that brought warm winter wishes to the entire University, and now to you. Enjoy!


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