Valentina Arismendi ’21 presents to nearly 4,000 virtual attendees at Adobe MAX 2020

by Barbara Wiedemann

What do photographer Annie Leibovitz, filmmaker Ava DuVernay and UNC Hussman senior Valentina Arismendi ’21 have in common? Each talked in depth about creative storytelling on Tuesday, sharing her point of view with a global virtual audience at Adobe MAX 2020, The Creativity Conference.

Every year, San Francisco-based Adobe Systems hosts an event to announce and promote its latest releases, and celebrate creativity with Adobe Creative Cloud users. This year’s conference is underway, and due to the coronavirus, it’s happening virtually across the globe with over 250 sessions, labs and creativity workshops for attendees to choose from.

Arismendi, an Honors Carolina student, was born in Venezuela and moved to Winter Springs, Florida, with her family in 2003. Coming to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was an early goal. Getting into the honors program and receiving a Wood Family Scholarship helped make the dream a reality. She continues to foster big dreams and set goals to achieve them at Carolina.

“The Wood Family Scholarship instilled in me this drive to ask myself: ‘What do you want to do next, and what do you have to do to get there?’” she said of the leadership program. She describes the program’s weekly meetings, one-on-one work with an adviser and book discussions with her peers since 2018 as instrumental in her ability to stay ambitious and focused at Carolina.

The senior is emphasizing graphic design as a UNC Hussman media and journalism student. She plans to graduate with a minor in composition, rhetoric and digital literacy and another in social and economic justice.

The irrepressibly curious Arismendi took a less than straight path to success at UNC. She detailed that winding journey in her Tuesday, October 20, Adobe MAX 2020 presentation “One Student’s Journey: How Digital Literacy Assignments Can Propel Success,” to 3,960 attendees from across the globe.

She’s not worried that the path forward is not a completely linear one.

“We have a lot of alumni at UNC Hussman who come back and share insights from their career,” she told her Adobe MAX audience about the guest lecturers she’s learned from as a student. “They always talk about how their career path was not straight… It’s simply never linear anymore!”

Arismendi walked her audience from design literacy projects she undertook in high school and through assignments that have shaped her career direction as she decided on a major at Carolina, moving from business to political science before she settled on media and journalism.

The Adobe MAX presenter shared projects she’s developed over the years, including as a Burch Fellow in Los Angeles in the summer of 2019 where, under the guidance of the Honors Carolina program, she documented Venezuelan immigrants who were small business owners, starting over in the U.S.

“It was one of the most influential summers that I’ve had,” she said, as she noted that the technological skills she’d learned for assignments in Carolina classes gave her the confidence to be multimodal in her storytelling that summer.

She shared the importance of reflection on learning, and talked about how she actively takes time to think about how she’ll use the skills gained from one assignment to creatively solve future projects.

An example she gave was her experience in MEJO 182: Foundations of Graphic Design class developing a rudimentary infographic. That experience allowed her to shine in Walter Spearman Distinguished Professor Terence Oliver’s MEJO 484: Information Graphics class, where she refined her skills and was able to produce a more complex “One Small Step For Woman” infographic about NASA that ended up garnering first place in the international Society for News Design competition in the infographic category this spring.

“Terence’s classes mainly solidified my sense that media and journalism was the right fit for me,” Arismendi shared.

Oliver said of the UNC Hussman senior, “Valentina has great enthusiasm and ambition. She has some natural gifts and lots of potential that she brings to the table. From day one she enthusiastically embraced foundational principles, was not afraid to take risks, meet me in my office or hop on multiple virtual calls if she needed help or had questions.”

Arismendi is no stranger to Adobe MAX — she’s been attending and presenting at the annual conferences for years (photo above, from 2019), thanks in part to UNC Hussman-based scholarships like the Don and Barbara Curtis Excellence Fund for Extracurricular Activities. Hussman’s Tucker Family Scholarship has also been a key support this academic year; as was the Ardis Kipp Cohoon Memorial Scholarship in her junior year.

The senior told peers in the first-ever UNC Hussman Student-to-Student (virtual) Internship Fair last week that professors like Todd Taylor in the UNC English and Comparative Literature Department and Terence Oliver at UNC Hussman helped introduce her to Adobe staffers during those conferences over the years, which set the stage for her 2020 summer internship with Karen McCavitt, the senior group manager in education marketing at Adobe Systems. McCavitt hired Arismendi as a (virtual) summer intern this past summer after seeing the Carolina media and journalism student present at earlier Adobe events.

Arismendi spent the summer producing this motion graphic about Hillary Diane Andales for Adobe, using and refining skills she learned in Professor Oliver’s MEJO 589: Motion Graphics course. She continues to work on projects with Adobe’s education marketing team today.

Arismendi shared exciting news with students at the internship fair: she’s accepted an offer to work with Adobe’s education marketing team full-time after graduation in May 2021!

“I think all three keynote speakers at the internship fair [UNC Hussman’s Vanessa Agunobi ’21, Giulia Heyward ’21 (M.A.) and Arismendi] made it clear that you don’t need to apply to 100 places for an internship,” she said. “Make meaningful connections with a few people might be more effective.” All keynote speakers had secured their internships “through untraditional means,” she noted.

Today, she says that media and journalism is the best fit for her because no matter where her career takes her, she’ll always be storytelling. “UNC Hussman has taught me to think through my lead, analyze my target audience, think about how to make them understand my message, and always think about what’s next,” she says. “That applies to anything I do in the future.”