Recent grad lands job in dream city


Northern Kentucky University is full of talented people — singers, dancers, writers, actors and pretty much everything in between. Recent graduate Peta Neihaus now knows something about that.

The 2011 graduate works at VSA Partners, an independent branding firm in Chicago. VSA Partners helped update branding at P&G, Nike and General Electric.
Neihaus is a digital designer who helps produce and improve websites.

An average day for Neihaus includes working on concepts for a new website, designing mobile applications or creating tools for tablets. As a designer, she works with strategists, information architects and developers.

“Working here is a very collaborative process. With our changing industry, many parts of the day involve critical thinking and problem solving with how to design for new screen resolutions and screen sizes,” she said.

Neihaus said that it had been her dream since high school to move to Chicago and when she was at NKU, she discovered VSA while researching future internships and knew that she wanted to work there.

“I applied for a summer co-op online via the VSA website after my second year at NKU. No response. The following year, I was a bit more strategic with my summer co-op plans. VSA was in my ‘dream co-ops’ category,” she said.

After talking to visual arts professor Julie Mader-Meersman about her application process, she discovered that Mader-Meersman had gone to graduate school with Neihaus’s current boss.

“Needless to say, I got the co-op last summer. During my final semester at NKU, I stayed in touch. When I graduated, I reached out to VSA and was offered a position,” Neihaus said.

Her story is one that many college graduates can only dream about.

Employers added just 96,000 jobs in August, down from 141,000 in July, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Sept. 7.
However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects artist and designer employment growth of 9.8 percent between 2010 and 2020, which translates to approximately 76,100 new artist and designer positions.

With a degree from NKU, Neihaus said she had a leg up, due to cutting-edge courses, portfolio development and a design internship requirement.

“[NKU’s] a great institution with passionate and caring professors that will encourage and push you as far as possible. Yes, you need to work your butt off in whatever arts you’re studying, but I’m a big believer in an enhanced experience by building community,” Neihaus said. “It takes more effort, but totally worth it.”

While NKU gave her a good design education, she learns new things about the web and designing digitally every day at VSA.

“I’ve learned a great deal at VSA, but I don’t know if they’re necessarily things I could have learned at NKU. I’ve had a lot of on-the-job training,” Neihaus said. “Beyond designing, I’ve learned different team dynamics, presentation techniques and work flows.”

She said that starting out as a young designer, it is exciting to work with companies that have been a part her life for years and to help new companies come to life with a dynamic and smart web experience.

“It’s truly a dream come true. I am beyond blessed to have this job,” Neihaus said.