Lauren Bakoian, MFA ’94 (Printmaking)

Lauren Bakoian, MFA ’94 (Printmaking)

Brooklyn, New York

Events & Space Use Manager, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity

Be flexible! I knew making art would be hard, but I also knew that finding a job would be key (I could eat! Pay the rent! Go out sometimes!). My biggest piece of advice is to TALK TO PEOPLE! This is how you build your community. It can also be how you get really interesting jobs. I talked to a neighbor in NYC and ended up managing the office of the oldest printmaking studio in the country. From there, I kept in touch with one of the artists and worked for him. Then I worked for his dealer and became the director of her gallery for 18 years. Now I work managing all kinds of cultural events at St. Ann's like The Moth, book talks with Zadie Smith, Mona Eltahawy, DeRay Mckesson, and Steven King, concerts with Patti Smith, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, and theater projects with Theater of War. I love the work I do, and guess what—I still make art. I show sometimes and even sell sometimes! Keep going, but keep talking, too!

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Anonymous, Class of 1990, BFA ’90

Boulder, Colorado

Go out and make positive change and have a great story to tell your grandchildren about how you left college in this terrible moment only to rise above and find great success!

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Anonymous, Class of 1998, BA ’98 (Architecture)

New York, New York

I live in New York City and have been told one of the epicenters of COVID-19. Although I am homebound now and will be for some time, my open window supplies the laughs of children playing. Be it in their secured backyards, it is a comfort. It makes me smile when often we do not these days. Birds chirp, kids laugh, I have turned off CNN. A new generation is starting despite this little hiccup, and we have a chance for a fresh start. Breath, relax, and look forward to the challenges you will have to face. If not for yourself, then for all of us. Cherish your education: It is so important.

We will all have to make changes in our lives, and I am confident that you will make the right ones. I am counting on it. Congratulations! We will be able to celebrate together soon. Until then, listen out your window, and you will hear the future: It is yours to define.

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Jared Della Valle, MArch ’96, MCM ’96

Brooklyn, New York

CEO, Alloy

After many hours and sleepless nights learning to design buildings, spaces, and cities, it's now time to focus on designing your career. The education I received at WashU prepared me for life well beyond the corners of the profession. It's time to leverage your imagination and confidence to define your own outcome. Survival instigates entrepreneurship, and now is the time to revel in the opportunity in front of you. Spend your time wisely, invest in yourself, and take risks. At the end of the day, luck is a skill.

Yvette Drury Dubinsky, MFA ’90

Yvette Drury Dubinsky, MFA ’90

Truro, Massachusetts

It’s such a bummer not to be able to finish your last semester on the amazing WashU campus this spring.  It’s a great loss, and I grieve for you, with you.  Know, however, how lucky you are to be an artist. Being an artist and enjoying that will provide great solace your whole life. As you know from school projects, there is no one right solution.  Most important is that you be yourself, use what you have, both inside and beside you, to make something that solves the problem, that approaches pleasing you.  If it fails to do what you need it to, change it to make it better. That’s what an artist does.

Communicate with your colleagues, and your faculty mentors if that works for you. Use them and work on your own while remembering what you have learned. It’s the beginning of your life’s practice, which will always require that you do that. Then learn more.

Welcome to the strong community of WU alumni who are all over the map with what we have done with our educations. Congrats!

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Moss Freedman, MFA ’94 (Sculpture)

Maplewood, New Jersey

Fine Arts Professor, Seton Hall University

Dear Sam Fox Class of 2020,

Stay healthy and I hope your loved ones are safe.

I'm sure many of you are unimaginably frustrated and your dreams feel like they have gone astray. But I am confident that all of you will rise, stare down, and overcome all of the challenges presented during this unprecedented moment in history. The world will be profoundly different at the end of this saga and you, as the first artists and visionaries of a new generation, will define and shape our next steps.

Hang on and charge forward.

Prof. Moss Freedman
Fine Arts instructor, Seton Hall University
Wash U. MFA 94

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Alan Griswold, BFA ’96 (Sculpture), AB ’96 (English)

Los Angeles, CA

Owner, Monkey Deux Inc.

As someone who graduated almost 25 years ago, I can tell you that over those years I've never once told anyone, nor have I heard a particularly good story, about a graduation ceremony.  You've got a great story to tell about a time in your life that literally everyone living today will remember and relate to.  It's a great ice-breaker.  Congratulations, Class of 2020.

Alex Hirsch, MFA ’93 (Painting)

Alex Hirsch, MFA ’93 (Painting)

Portland, Oregon

Dearest Class of 2020,

There is no denying this is really tough. No matter what your personal circumstances are, society is turning on its side. This is really uncomfortable. Let yourself feel the disappointment. Take good care of your body, mind, and spirit; they are your dearest asset. Since things aren't business as usual, you can be even more innovative. You have an advantage in being able to dig deep.

Try new things
Try again
Listen to people you value
Follow your creative impulse
Come together with others. School friends can be among your closest and best resources once you leave school. Foster those relationships.

Expect ups and lows repeatedly. That's my experience in more than 30 years since my education. Some of you will continue to make, some won't, and some will return to the arts when it's a better time for you. That's natural, and it's okay.

Trust yourself

Sincere wishes for the well-being of you and of others,
Alex Hirsch

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Casey Hyland, BA ’95 (Architecture)

Louisville, Kentucky

"If there is no happy ending, make one out of cookie dough."
—Cooper Edens

As a father with twins graduating high school this spring, I very much sympathize with the absurdity that you may be feeling. Cooper Edens was shared by my favorite instructor, Sheldon Helfman, a color theorist at the Sam Fox School. I used many of Eden's illustrations in my presentations. Though I enjoyed critiques as much as anyone, it is my instructors/critics that I remember: Laura Miller, Richard Sommer, Adrian Luchini, James Harrison, Bob Hansman, Ian Frazier, Udo Kultermann, and Dean Michaelides. Even as a hot glassmaker, I lean on their lessons everyday. I am so very happy that they are a part of my story. Fortunately, you have much time for designing and making. Givens Hall is a magical place with magical people. And who doesn't like cookies?

Casey Hyland, Class of 1995

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Sasha Issac-Young, BFA ’99 (Printmaking, Drawing), AB ’99 (Performing Arts)

Los Angeles, California

Sometimes the strangest, seemingly darkest times are when the seeds are planted for the greatest creativity and growth. Allow for the experience of loss and retreat, and all levels of reconsideration, knowing it is only an unexpected winter—and some day, however far in the future, there will be a balance of unexpected spring and summer.

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Michelle Komie, BFA ’97 (Painting), AB ’97 (English)

Lambertville, New Jersey

Publisher, Art and Architecture, Princeton University Press

It can be challenging coming out of college at any time. There isn't always a clear path to the next thing, no matter the world's circumstances. But artists and visual thinkers are more able than many to create or forge their own paths, rather than follow existing ones. Times of major transition can also present new opportunities, ways of thinking, and ways of being in the world. The world needs these new approaches now more than ever. If this seems daunting, take small steps. A lot of small steps equal a route, and a route is built over a duration of time.

When I graduated no one could have told me where I'd be in five years. It was a field, book publishing, with which I was only vaguely familiar. I did not land here right away, the process took four years, and began much earlier, before I was even aware of it. You are already on your way. Congratulations, graduates—we welcome and need your energy, spirit, innovation, and dedication, now more than ever.

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Chris Manzo, BA ’90 (Architecture)

Louisville, Kentucky

Principal, SNDBX Design and Architecture

Greetings and well wishes!

Liz and I will sorely miss seeing you all this April at Reunion. WashU holds a special place in our hearts—not only for the nurturing of a lifelong curiosity about the world, but for providing the opportunity for us to meet and be together! Having met at our 20th, we were greatly looking forward to reconnecting with you all here on our 30th! This year leadership and safety take precedence over our desire to gather.  Please be safe with each of your families as we weather the COVID pandemic (#HealthyAtHome). We will get through this together. VERY much looking forward to the next available opportunity to meet up and reconnect! Be safe and well.

Devin Oishi, BFA ’91 (Painting)

Devin Oishi, BFA ’91 (Painting)

Honolulu, Hawai'i


Aloha! I have been documenting da life of Wash U parents Marela and George Man. While dealing wit Corona dey having problems wit dher mask fo get ready fo gradumacation dinna shopping.


Hello, I have been documenting the life of Washington University parents Marela and George Man. They are having problems dealing with Corona virus. They need to go shopping for their son's graduation dinner but being sharks with gills, N95 masks are inadequate.

I hope your family is not experiencing similar foibles. If so, let me know.

"Forward, my little brothers, and drink of the bitter waters, there is no retreat
(I mua e nä pöki‘i a inu i ka wai ‘awa‘awa, ‘a‘ole hope e ho‘i aku ai.)"

-Kamehameha Paiea leading his warriors to unify the Islands of Hawai'i.

It strikes me that we are slowly perhaps maybe beginning to unify the world through aloha?

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Charles Schwall, MFA ’91 (Painting)

Mission, Kansas

Each graduate leaves Washington University with a unique body of knowledge and ways of thinking that are their own. Everyone is different. You have to find the path, in your career and in your life, that is right for you. Your path may look very different from what others around you are doing. This is especially true in the arts and professional creative careers. Trust yourself; trust your own journey. Don't put any limitations on what your own “body of knowledge” can become; work hard and let it unfold. Let yourself be surprised by what you do as you discover your direction.

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Dan Serig, BFA ’92 (Graphic Communications)

Boston, Massachusetts

Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

You are right to grieve; to be upset about what you're missing; to mourn the loss of the experiences you were envisioning. Graduation is one of those rare, beautiful, important moments when we, as a culture, stop and formally recognize—a signifier of your transition from one part of your life to the next. It is special. And while the ceremonies may be different or delayed for you, it is no less significant. Those who have supported you to this point of celebration are incredibly proud of you. This includes all of the alumni that preceded you. We are very proud and will celebrate with you from afar. Keep in mind, you are about to enter a global network of creatives that you can count on for support. My winding journey has taken me into art and design higher education administration. At my institution, I work with several professors who are also alumni—spanning at least three decades. Your WashU family will always be there for you. Congratulations and hang in there.

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Supie Shea, BFA ’91 (Illustration)

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”
—Henry David Thoreau.

Grads—give yourself the gift of disappointment that your time at WashU did not conclude with commencement ceremonies. You deserve that. But then let it go.

Your time at school is not defined by this ceremony. It is defined by the wisdom you gained, the friends you made, the experiences you had, and the amazing opportunities that await you.

You now have the privilege of being able to say that you graduated from one of the best universities in the world.

Congratulations to all the WashU 2020 grads! YOU ARE AMAZING!

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Chad Smith, BA ’93 (Architecture)

New York, New York

Owner, Smith & Architects

Whatever you do, trust your artistic instincts.  They're the one thing you have that no one else has, and over the course of your career, they'll take you a great many places.

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Ana Stein, MArch ’94


To the Class of 2020,

I know in this crazy time, it's challenging to stay committed, hopeful, and positive. Take a deep breath and know that we are your biggest cheerleaders, so go ahead and dream big. Dream forward.

Create a new tomorrow with what you learned today. Remember that your footprint will matter greatly and impact all aspects of our social, emotional, and built environment, so make your mark and make it count.

Congratulations to the Washington University Class of 2020!

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Jonathan Stein, MArch/MCM ’93


Partner, Skidmore Ownings and Merrill

When I graduated in 1993, it was in the middle of the Recession. Students that had graduated from the previous year were still hanging out at the school because there were no jobs. I moved to NYC where architecture firms were not hiring. I sent out more than 250 resumes and went on 10 job interviews before I was offered my first job. Due to the inconsistency of work, I worked for five different firms the next five years. I then landed at SOM were I have been ever since. If you truly love architecture and the profession, be persistent and patient. The future has tremendous opportunities for you!

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Jennifer Tanabe, BFA ’96 (Graphic Communications, Advertising Design)

Honolulu, Hawai'i

Partner + Creative Director, Wall-to-Wall Studios

Dear Class of 2020,

Congratulations on your amazing accomplishments!

It breaks my heart to know that you and thousands of other graduates are being robbed of the customary celebrations and hoopla that you so richly deserve.

While there is no doubt that these last few weeks have reshaped your perspective on your path forward and the world around you, please do not let this abrupt shift in the paradigm diminish all that you've achieved thus far.

You have already proven that you are capable of provoking thought and creating beauty from nothing but raw materials, vision, and your own two hands. That is your gift. I have no doubt that you will channel this time of pain and uncertainty into creating beauty and opportunity where none seems to exist. If you let hope lead your heart even in times of darkness, you will make it through.

Sending much aloha from Hawaii!

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Benedict Tranel, BA ’97 (Architecture)

San Francisco, California

Principal, Gensler

To the Class of 2020

you are embarking into a world that has been changed
class of 2020
will have the same resonance as 9/11
and like 9/11
when I was a recently graduated architect
with dreams of creating something in the world
I learned that the power of the creative act
endures longer than the destructive act
there are those of us who seek to create
you are one
and we will endure

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Kimetha Vanderveen, MFA ’94 (Painting)


Let your work be a means to see the world more clearly and reach new understanding. Amid so much loss, this is a moment for putting into practice all that you have learned. You are reaching a new level of ability to care for yourself and others. There are countless ways.

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Enrique Von Rohr, BFA ’96 (Visual Communications)

St. Louis, Missouri

Director of Research & Technology, Senior Lecturer, Washington University in St. Louis

Artists, architects, and designers are trained to work with constraints. It is in your DNA and how you have been working even if not always overtly so. I know the constraints of today far exceed any prior ones, but I know you will be resilient and innovative. You are entrepreneurs and will make it through this time. Help each other and do not hesitate to ask for the help of others.

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Jennifer Weisbord, BFA ’92 (Photography)

New York

Congratulations, Class of 2020. Take all you have learned from WashU and go make our world a much better place. We need you more than ever. You are our future. Take your dreams and make them happen. You got this!!

Wash U alums will always have your back!

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Nancy Zimbalist, BFA ’93 (Printmaking), Post-AB ’96 (Education)

Sharon, Massachusetts

Art Specialist, Boston Public Schools

You have created, you have grown, and now you begin again, upside down, backwards, and stronger than ever. Remember that your art education is all about problem-solving. There is nothing you can't figure out, work your way through, and make something new out of. You are new, your community is new, and your world will be new. Be birthed into what will be a blinding light of new opportunity and life. Congratulations.