Students in field

Finlandia Success: Haley Neri ’15

November 30, 2016

Haley Neri works in her office at Boss Beauty Supply

This month’s Finlandia University alumni success story is focusing on recent alumni Haley Neri – a double major who is now working as a marketing coordinator at Boss Beauty Supply in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this question-and-answer session she talks about the meaningful experiences she had at Finlandia that prepared her for her career. She also offers some advice for students currently enrolled at Finlandia.

Meet Haley Neri

What captivated you about Finlandia University when you first looked at it as a freshman at Adrian College?

I was in the position where I wanted to experience something new, and living in a place like the copper country seemed like the perfect place. I visited campus in the fall at the peak of the color season, and I had basically made my mind up in one visit that this is where I wanted to pursue my education. I also was intrigued with the art and design department. Its small class sizes and spacious studios were nice, and I looked forward to the one-on-one guidance I saw when I toured the campus.

What ultimately made me feel confident in choosing Finlandia was looking at the curriculum. When I was at Adrian College, the concentration in Graphic Design only offered three classes. Finlandia opened that category so much more with classes like Package Design, Critical Thinking, Typography, Environmental Design, etc. I felt like Finlandia had more to offer in that sense. I also liked that I would have the opportunity to play soccer, and ended up being captain for two of the three seasons that I played.

Who at Finlandia University provided the most guidance and inspiration to you through your four-year journey through college?

Haley Neri at Honors Banquet

Haley Neri and classmates pose for a photo during the 2015 Honors Banquet at the Finnish American Heritage Center.

Former Graphic Design professor Robert Graham was one of those teachers that made you think and question all the decisions you would make on one project. There were times when I doubted myself as a designer, but once I came to terms to what he was trying to make me understand more doors opened up for me. He was constantly giving relevant examples of current design, along with classic references that everyone should know. It felt like we were learning from the pros, and applying that into our projects. All our projects had strict deadlines, and a clear progression of ideations and sketches. I used to hate sketching! For a single project, sometimes he would ask for over 100 sketches, and sometimes my brain would feel blank after five. I always wanted to dig deep and learn as much as I could so I always tried to do each project above and beyond. Sometimes I was successful and a lot of times I was not—but all the times I felt like I didn’t do great just pushed me to do better, and eventually my work started to show that.

What prepared you best for your first job after graduation?

I think my junior year was the first year I felt like I had sense of belonging in my chosen career path. I finally was doing work I was proud of, and I landed a graphic design internship in Philadelphia the summer before my senior year. I gained a lot from that, which helped me survive my senior year in terms of balancing multiple projects and time management.

My senior year was an ultimate test!

I was doing work study for the International School of Art and Design (making posters/postcards for the Finlandia University Gallery shows, I was responsible for maintaining the graphics lab, doing web updates for the ISAD website when necessary), managing all Student Senate marketing, doing multiple freelance projects including the university Christmas card, multiple posters for various events, and promotional material for the Portage Health Foundation – all while working on my senior diploma works and trying to finish classes for both of my degrees (Graphic Design and Business Administration). It forced me to learn how to balance my time and produce good work with a quicker turnaround time.

Did any courses and/or extracurricular opportunities in the International School of Art & Design stand out as extremely interesting to you?

Art History 3 with Denise Vandeville was probably one of my favorite courses at Finlandia. That says a lot because I was never interested in history. Denise changed that so quickly, and I found myself obsessed with all the movements we learned about, such as work from the New York school and minimalist art. In that class, we went on the annual Chicago trip to actually see a lot of these paintings and sculptures in person which was a great experience.

Another set of courses that I valued so much at Finlandia were the several classes I took with Rick Loduha. His style of thinking/teaching was something so different than what I have ever received before, but it still sticks with me today. In noetic skills, we were learning how to channel creativity—and learned that simple things like breaking everyday patterns was a way to develop fresh thinking and new ideas. Every day I think and use things from that class to try to create stronger work. In all of Ric’s classes I learned a lot about sustainability and green thinking; that kind of Keweenaw mindset has stayed with me since graduation.

Finally, what advice would you give to current Finlandia students as they work through their programs?

I would tell students to not give up. Balancing classes and living on your own (for most students) can be a big adjustment—and it’s totally normal to feel like you want to quit sometimes. I feel like learning how to manage your time and trying to plan ahead are still some of the most important skills you can have as a student, and as a successful graduate. Make time to focus on your studies—but also allow yourself time to breathe. College is not supposed to be easy, and you do need to learn how to take care of yourself! Keep your eyes on the goal ahead, but enjoy every part of being a college student, because the years go by so incredibly fast. Oh – and for art students, save all your work (even the crappy stuff you did freshman year), because later it could turn into a great portfolio piece when you learn more.

This article on 2015 alum Haley Neri is part of a regularly produced series titled Finlandia Success. E-mail alumni@finlandia.edu to suggest alumni who might make a great feature in the next Finlandia Success story.

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