From Emerson to working at the Obama Foundation: Alumni Spotlight Series

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Samantha Viotty, Media Design MA Alumnus, describes her career path from a graduate student at Emerson, to working for the Obama Foundation.

Samantha Viotty

Media Design (MA) 2017
I’m an NYC-born multimedia artist, designer, and educator living in Washington DC. I currently work at the Obama Foundation using design thinking to empower young people around the country to effectively create change in their communities.
Describe your career path since graduation, and how you ended up working at the Obama Foundation.
After I graduated in September 2017, I continued to work on my master’s thesis, a youth creative data literacy pilot program at various branches of the Boston Public Library until I was hired to work at the Obama Foundation as an Experience Design Associate in November.
Why did you choose to attend Emerson?
The Media Design program was the only program in the country that was so immersive, community-driven, and creative. Emerson’s community is creative, and I value a liberal arts education.
Tell us about your Emerson experience.
I spent 12 months at Emerson and enjoyed my experience overall. I had never attended a college that was in the center of a city before, and it was an immersive and creative experience. Although I was in the first year of a new graduate program with a small group of individuals, I was able to take courses with people in other programs and that was truly another highlight of my experience. I made new friends and found bridges to connect our work. I am still connected to them and working with them and having their perspective really changed the way I was able to create.
Describe Emerson in 3 words.
Creative, eclectic, collaborative.
Describe your most memorable experience with Emerson’s faculty.
My trip to Salzburg was the highlight of my Emerson faculty experience. I had the opportunity to get to know my professors in a new way as well as get introduced to different Emerson staff. The immersive experience enhanced being at Emerson as a whole. I was able to teach alongside Emerson faculty during the summer, an opportunity I was looking forward to the entire year.
Tell us about a memorable project/internship that you worked on as a student.
My thesis project, called DIY Data Art, was a creative data literacy pilot program for youth at various branches of the Boston Public Library (Dudley, Copley, Egleston, and Mission Hill). Partnering and working very closely with design curriculum with four branches of the BPL and the middle school and high school students that frequented those libraries contributed to the success of the project. I worked with librarians and teens to come up with new and creative ideas on how to teach data literacy to young people and get them interested in the field of data science. The project culminated in a physical creative data literacy toolkit that included a creative data literacy curriculum with lesson plans and activities along with the materials to conduct those activities. Each librarian who worked with me on the project received a site-specific toolkit to use with the youth at their branches.
How did Emerson help you get to where you are today? 
The Media Design program helped me develop the design-thinking skills, strategic planning skills, and program design needed for me to take the position at the Obama Foundation that I have now. I managed an entire project from ideation to implementation (a very micro version of starting a program) during my thesis which is invaluable. I use the skills I learned in Media Design every day at work.