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Alumni:Where are they now?

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Name: Almendra “Ally” Margin

Age: 33

Hometown: Edinburg

Degree: Bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a concentration in graphic design and a minor in communication advertising

Graduation year: 2005

Current job: Senior creative designer at USAA in San Antonio

How would you describe your college years? “A whirlwind. It went by really, really, quick. I was on a UTPA full scholarship. I was required to take 15 hours and keeping an A average, [then] balancing a college life; it went by quickly.”

What where your favorite things to do while in college? “In the BFA program, I had access to the studios. Just spending time with all the other art students and exploring sculptors, different types of art and stuff was fun. Outside of school, I was working at H-E-B and hanging out with friends, just doing the normal college stuff.”

What motivated you to pursue your degree? “I always wanted to do something that didn’t feel like it was a job when I was actually in the professional world. I always enjoyed art. It was a passion from very early on, so I knew I wanted to do something in that field. I decided to specialize in graphic design because I was aware that I needed to make money. Technology and art was a good strategy and it’s paying off. I’m still doing what I studied, so I’m proud of that.”

Did your degree prepare you for the real world? “I will be honest, it set a good foundation, but a lot of it, like 85 percent of it, you just have to learn in the real world. You have to have the drive to learn on your own, especially in a field like mine, where everything is advancing so quickly all the time. You have to keep up with the changes in technology, design trends and design principles. I’d say that college is a good foundation, but I learned a lot in the real world.”

What experiences have you had that you would say are out of the ordinary since graduating? “After graduating, I went to UT Austin and I got my master’s in advertising. After that, at my first agency job, I was sent to France with another co-worker to represent the U.S. in an advertising competition. We were in France for a whole week. We competed against 40 other countries in a short film festival and we came home with second place. So, that whole experience is something that I really treasure because it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. I don’t think I will ever go back to France.”

Briefly describe what you do in your current job. “It’s difficult to describe to people what I do as a designer, but it’s more than making things pretty. I work in a department that focuses on what we call, The Employee Experience. [This is] anything that has to do with how the employees interact with things within the company. For example, how the internet works for the employee, how well it’s designed, as well as any logos that the company may need; any type of marketing material comes my way, so I wear a lot of hats. At the end of it all, it involves a lot strategies and really understanding ‘the customers,’ which are the employees of where I work, and make their experience pleasant and beautiful.”

What else do you do besides your current job? “I have a 21-month-old child, so that keeps me on my toes and I’m expecting. I have two businesses. A free-lance photography one called Paper, Love, Scissors, and I make accessories for little girls on Etsy. That one is called House of Monroe, [which] is named after my daughter.”

What’s next, careerwise? “I’m a creative designer right now and I really enjoy branding. I am slowly starting to mark my way in that section here in USAA. I want to move over to the brand department here and, hopefully, be able to work on more branding projects for the company.”

What advice do you have for anyone pursuing your degree? “Do not settle for what you are learning in the classroom. Really take to heart when they tell you to find your favorite artist and favorite designers and what’s out there and be influenced by everything, not just design. I absolutely love interior design. I love fashion design. I love anything that touches on creativity. Kind of allowing yourself to be influenced by all this is going to make you a more wholesome designer.”

–Compiled by Sarah Carvajal and Brenda Garza

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