Beautification project a win-win for school, students

Assistant Professor of Design Chris Murphy (standing) and members of the Design United team discuss the Capital Christian School beautification project.

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau 

Students giving back to students.

It’s a simple idea that sits at the core of all things Grand Canyon University. It is also a concept that continues to make waves in communities near and far.

And it was the exact motivation behind Canyon Promotions’ most recent collaboration with the College of Arts and Media’s student-led advertising agency, Design United.

Last year, Canyon Promotions was connected with Capital Christian School (CCS) in Sacramento, California, after school officials had expressed interest in visually revamping their campus and brand. With a background in similar projects spanning 20 years, Canyon Enterprise Division Manager Renate Spilger knew exactly how to fulfill her new client’s vision in a way that could benefit both their students and GCU students alike.

Like many professionals, Spilger sees of the gap between classroom theory and real-world application. In order to best prepare students for careers after college, that professional application of their skills is critical. That’s why she made it her mission to contact Assistant Professor of Design Chris Murphy and begin a partnership with his Design United students.

A window treatment designed by GCU students is part of beautification project for the Capital Christian School.

“I said, ‘Here is a perfect opportunity to pair up,’ especially because we had a lot of smaller clients and other school partners,” Spilger said. “It turned out to be an absolute perfect match.”

Since talk of Capital Christian’s beautification project began in the fall, students have designed several different pieces to help bring the school’s bare walls to life. From there, the plan was for a Canyon Promotions team to add the designs to the actual campus.

Some of the designs include a timeline graphic, wrap-around and wall graphics, and a selfie wall.

Every idea the Design United students presented was a home run, Spilger said.

“The project that they showed was pretty close to hitting it from the get-go,” she said. “We presented them with a project outline like, ‘This is what the client wants,’ and they took that information and translated it into beautiful designs.”

What could be better than working with a dedicated team and receiving impressive designs?

Simple. It's free.

“What President (Brian) Mueller really loved about this was the fact that we’re delivering this to the school at zero cost because our students are enrolling in UNV-430 and they're earning internship credits for this entire program,” he said.

But not every Design United student is using the experience as an opportunity to get internship credit. For some, it's a volunteer opportunity to help a good cause and get more experience for their resumé.

Design team member Nicole Nowakowski reviews the brand guidelines.

It’s the willingness and enthusiasm for the project that is really meaningful for Murphy.

“They’re really inspiring, how they are devoting their time and their talents to this. And I think that’s just a characteristic of a GCU student, from what I’ve seen,” he said. “They’re all really excited about it, and for myself, as an educator, it’s a great way to see them provide services to the community.

“I’m really proud of them.”

For Samira Wollin, who works as a volunteer student designer on the project, it was an opportunity to reconnect with some of skills she had learned in high school, having worked on similar beautification projects for her prior campus.

“Getting to do this in a professional setting for an entire school and just continuing that passion that I’ve already had for so many years is a really special opportunity,” she said. “It’s really inspiring, especially for this kind of project, just to see all the passion and the skill sets from the different students and faculty and just all the collaboration that goes on, just because design can often be a pretty individual task when it comes to assignments.”

Despite earning internship credits, Anthony Giudice and Brennan Ziegler still felt passionate about giving back to the Christian community.

“I just really love the fact that we’re working with a Christian school, because I could work on different vinyl arts that incorporate Bible verses,” Ziegler said. “It’s just really nice to incorporate Christian core values into this beautification campaign.”

Members of the GCU design team -- from left, Samira Wollin, Anthony Giudice, Nicole Leake, Brennan Ziegler and Nicole Nowakowski -- discuss ideas for the beautification project.

The most memorable part for Giudice was the way the GCU team was trusted.

“I think it’s just really cool that the school trusts a bunch of college kids to make their school a lot more beautiful,” he said. “With it being a Christian school and the fact that we get to make it a lot more pretty just adds the extra value to our work.”

It is the beginning of a relationship that Spilger hopes will continue for the foreseeable future.

And if the experience working with Canyon Promotions and Design United over the last few months has been any indication, the feeling is mutual.

“Our partnership is a collaborative effort, as Canyon Promotions listened to our vision and identified with us in the changes we wanted to see happen in our culture on campus,” said Lynne Wong, Capital Christian's Marketing Director. “We want our guests to step foot on our campus and know our school is about the students – that they are seen, known and loved. We are thankful that GCU understands our message and appreciate their ability to identify with the GenZ culture!

“It was refreshing to work with a partner who was truly looking out for our school and knew the challenges we have faced this past year with the pandemic.”

It’s a win-win. The perfect scenario.

“You just can’t put a price on it,” Giudice said.

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].


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