Last month, hundreds of design students gathered at Rochester Institute of Technology for the second consecutive Thought at Work design conference. Organized by an ambitious team of design students, the weekend of October 18–20 not only held more events but doubled the attendance of the previous year. This student organization exemplifies the power of ambition and reaching past the typical student experience.
Reporting by John Leavitt
Last year, Thought at Work hosted 205 students from eight universities. Kyle Sheth, one of the lead coordinators said, "I was pleased with the attendance in 2012, as a start-up event, but I'd like to double our reach this year." This is exactly what they did. Students from schools including Syracuse University, Columbus College of Art and Design, Ohio State, and University of the Arts and coming together to make over 400 participants from 16 Universities attending nearly 60 events in a single weekend! Katie Young from Columbus College of Art and Design said, "The lecturers were very inspiring. This event opened my eyes to the expansive world of design."
Throughout the conference, there were presentations by professionals from a wide range of design fields and inspirational talks by great keynote speakers. "I had a great experience and was inspired by many of the design professionals who came in to present, commented Zach Stringham from Syracuse University. Bradley G. Munkowitz, a.k.a. GMUNK, gave an exciting and inspirational talk about his incredible work and finding happiness in life, packing Ingle Auditorium to its capacity of 507 people. GMUNK's energy was grounded by the grace of Pattie Moore's lecture on human centered design for all ages. Students and instructors alike were excited to see Spencer Nugent host a sketching workshop. Lynnsey Oberg from Columbus College of Art and Design wrote and told us, "Each and every workshop I attended was a learning experience even if it didn't pertain to my major or interests. I've already applied things I've learned to the work I'm currently working on." Other workshops were hosted by designers from companies such as Microsoft, Autodesk, B-Reel, Smart Design, Storyline, and the Raymond Corporation.
The conference was not all lectures and workshops. Friday night of Thought at Work, Roc Brewing Co. and Wings Over Rochester sponsored beer and wings for everyone at the conference followed by an after party at the local restaurant and pub, Lovin Cup. Saturday night a birthday party for Patricia Moore was hosted at CURE a local restaurant owned by an RIT ID alumni with an open bar sponsored by Staach furniture. All of these fun events were great opportunities to for students to network with each other and design professionals.
The organization of Thought at Work was not only an ambitious achievement for the students but a huge learning process for everyone when help. Last year, the core organizing team comprised of 6–10 students; by the day of the conference in October 2013, Thought at Work was made possible by over 50 student volunteers. Through the organization process, students from a freshman year level were connected with seniors and worked together towards a singular goal. As freshmen were getting a first taste of working on a team with real world impact, upperclassmen were experiencing what it was like take on leadership roles and work between students and professionals.
Thought at Work continues to build relationships that reach past the organization of a conference into friendships and networks which are hard to achieve through the typical college experience. Thought at Work looks forward to hosting their event annually and continuing its story of building relationships between students and professionals to bring passionate designers closer together."