Ivy Tech Community College turns to fellow graduate to creatively celebrate Class of 2020

Ivy Tech Community College turns to fellow graduate to creatively celebrate Class of 2020

For Ivy Tech Community College Valparaiso and one of its many successful graduates, a fulfilling full-circle moment arose from the unexpected shift in this spring semester. 

With this year’s graduates unable to participate in a typical commencement celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders at Ivy Tech sought ways to celebrate the Class of 2020. When it came to creating a sign that grads could pick up and display proudly in their yards, they turned to Amber Rardin, a graphic designer at Simko Signs, who had earned her associate degree in technical design in 2019. 

“There is a nice feeling designing a project for the school where I learned how to do graphic design,” Rardin said, looking out at the dozens of signs she created lining the circular drive in front of the Ivy Tech Valpo campus.

Kimmie LaBarge, Director of Marketing and Communications for Ivy Tech Community College Valparaiso, met Rardin at an event in 2018. As a student, Rardin created a handful of design materials for Ivy Tech events, and LaBarge remembered her quality of work. 

“I serve on our campus commencement committee, and I thought of Amber right away when this project came up,” LaBarge said.

Ivy Tech Community College Valparaiso often partners with Simko Signs when it comes to all things signage, from banners and promotions to the large channel letters emblazoned on the side of the campus building. This partnership made it possible for Rardin to connect directly with the Simko Signs team and begin her career with the company when she herself approached graduation.

“I knew this was going to be a special project, and I knew Amber worked [for Simko Signs], so I asked them if she’d be available to design,” LaBarge said. 

The finished product exceeded expectations, with the community college’s green colors catching the eye and its recognizable icon, the stacked “I-V-Y,” leading off the sign. Rardin said she kept some of the components she learned at Ivy Tech close to heart as she designed the sign, techniques that are now second nature when she designs anything in her field.

“I design almost everything on Adobe Illustrator, and I didn’t know anything about Adobe products until I started going here,” Rardin said. “One of the things that was stressed in my design technology classes was the importance of legibility, so I made sure the word ‘Graduate’ was clear to read.”

Rardin gave the white letters a darker green shadow to make them easy for passersby to read.

Simko Signs printed 750 of Rardin’s graduate yard signs. So far, the response on social media from the Class of 2020 has been positive, LaBarge said. She and her team are excited for students to retrieve their signs, and to deliver them to the Ivy Tech Community College Michigan City campus. 

“This is just one example of the projects [Rardin’s] been able to help us with, all the way from her time as a student to ongoing projects with us now. But this is a very special one, because she herself is a graduate,” LaBarge said. 

Rardin said she is thankful for her time at Ivy Tech for a multitude of reasons, especially for giving her the assistance and confidence she needed to begin her career with a successful local company in her field.

“I really love how you can easily talk to a teacher or anyone else on the campus staff. When you’re having struggles, you can get really helpful one-on-one time with professors that you probably can’t get as easily or as often at a four-year university,” she said. “Plus, they definitely help you when you’re ready to find a job. Whether it’s related to an assignment or your future, the faculty here really care about the students.”

Recently, Ivy Tech Community College has been taking extra measures to remind students of that virtually, too, especially the graduating class. In addition to the signs, Ivy Tech Community College Valparaiso will be sending gifts to all the graduates through the campus bookstore this summer, has placed a “Grad Ad” celebrating the Class of 2020 in local newspapers, and created a celebratory message for a digital sign off of State Road 49 in Chesterton. The Class of 2020 is invited to participate in a virtual commencement ceremony on June 5, and is invited to walk in the 2021 commencement ceremony. 

The YouTube link for this year’s virtual event will be made available on the Ivy Tech Valparaiso’s social media accounts at 4 p.m., June 5, when the stream will begin. Here’s a link to the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/276539150398809/.

Just like every year, this year’s virtual commencement will be a special way to pay tribute to graduates like Rardin, who couldn’t help but keep smiling at the large circle of signs she created on behalf of the school with which she still maintains a lasting connection.