Jessica Franco

headshot of Jessica smiling
Hometown: Pretoria, South Africa
B.F.A. in Graphic Design with a minor in Art History

How did you first get interested in art?

From a young age, my interest in art blossomed. I was the kid who would dedicate countless hours to creating delightful macaroni masterpieces for my parents to proudly display on the fridge. As I grew older, my creative pursuits expanded, from drawing in the sand to transforming everyday objects into works of art. I eagerly embraced opportunities to explore my artistic skills by joining my school's design club and enrolling in every art class available.

Over time, my passion for aesthetics and visual communication deepened, leading me to pursue a degree in Graphic Design. My aspirations for creative development are fueled by my passion for designing with empathy through pushing the boundaries of traditional art forms. I aspire to become a voice for the underrepresented. One of my proudest achievements was having my design displayed at the career center—a poster celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month. What intrigues me most about art and design is the potential to be advocates for silenced voices. Growing up in Africa, I witnessed the transformative power of art in the hands of the underprivileged, who used it as a means to fight for equality. Inspired by their example, I strive to do the same through my art. By designing with empathy, I aim to be a steadfast supporter of diversity and equality, lending my voice to those who may otherwise go unheard.

What kind of career do you hope to have?

As I approach my senior year, I have begun laying the foundation for my application to graduate school while simultaneously exploring internship opportunities at design firms and agencies to gain practical experience. This decision holds immense significance not only for me but also for my family, as I am a first-generation student. My interest lies in pursuing graduate studies in design research, driven by a deep passion for harnessing design's potential to solve complex problems and address societal issues. 

Throughout my remaining time on campus, I intend to maintain my role as a peer mentor, leveraging the creative skills and knowledge I have acquired in Graphic Design to develop innovative approaches that support and nurture student success. My ultimate goal is to return to an academic setting and continue promoting the success of other students. I am particularly passionate about empowering underrepresented students and showing them that there is a place in this world for them. My aspiration is to guide students in transforming their obstacles into opportunities for growth. While my journey and aspirations are still a work in progress, I eagerly anticipate contributing to something larger than myself and becoming an integral part of a vibrant community.

What is your favorite thing about the College of Arts + Architecture?

During my time at UNC Charlotte, I have come to deeply appreciate the privilege of being a part of the College of Arts + Architecture. I especially feel grateful to be majoring in Graphic Design and be taught by professors who are very passionate about the subject. What truly sets the College of Arts + Architecture apart is its remarkable sense of community among faculty, staff, and students. I am extremely grateful for the endless opportunities provided to us students as well as the extremely talented professors who go the extra mile to help us grow as designers. 

Do you participate in any community activities or work in the Charlotte arts community? 

I am delighted to share the news that I have been selected as a representative for the CoA+A Student Equity Council. This opportunity aligns perfectly with my unwavering passion for promoting equal opportunities and fostering an inclusive environment that embraces individuals of all ages, backgrounds, cultures, races, and gender.

I also volunteer as a designer for the North Carolina Air National Guard and serve as a peer mentor on campus. Having served as both a peer mentor and success guide for the University Center for Academic Excellence, I have been able to guide students through their academic challenges in creative ways by drawing on skills and resources that I have acquired through the Graphic Design program. 

I have also started attending conferences and recently presented at the North Carolina Peer Leader conference in Raleigh. I plan to continue attending conferences, workshops, and professional development opportunities to build my skills and knowledge. I hope to make connections with eager designers who are pushing the boundaries of art to make a positive impact in their communities. 

What are the benefits of your merit/departmental scholarships?

I have had the privilege of being awarded both the Eldred Hudson Graphic Design Scholarship and the Greg Middleton Graphic Design Scholarship. These scholarships have been instrumental in supporting my educational journey, allowing me to dedicate more time to honing my craft and furthering my skills in graphic design. These scholarships have also empowered me to give back to my community. I firmly believe in paying it forward, and with the support of these scholarships, I have been able to allocate more time towards volunteering and engaging in meaningful community service. Whether it is through volunteering at local organizations, participating in design initiatives for social causes, or mentoring aspiring artists, I am committed to using my skills and knowledge to make a positive impact. I am determined to make the most of this opportunity and leverage my experiences to make a difference in the world of design and beyond.

When you are not in class, studying, or working, what do you like to do for fun?

One of my priorities is to travel back to South Africa during the summer to visit my friends and family. These trips not only allow me to reconnect with my roots and spend quality time with loved ones but also expose me to new experiences and perspectives that enrich my understanding of the world. Additionally, I find great joy in working on personal creative projects. Whether it's exploring different artistic mediums, experimenting with new design techniques, or expressing my creativity in various forms, engaging in personal projects allows me to nurture my artistic passion and further develop my skills as a designer. Volunteering also holds a special place in my heart. I find immense fulfillment in giving back to my community and making a positive impact on the lives of others.