Q&A with 2019 Graphic Design alumna, Blaze books illustrator Sara Parks

Sara Parks

Sara Parks, 24, of Jackson, is a 2017 graduate of Marshall High School who graduated from Kellogg Community College with an Associate of Applied Science in Graphic Design degree in 2019. 

While a student at KCC, Parks, who was a KCC Foundation Board of Trustees Scholar, did extensive volunteer design work for the College’s Encore Theatre Club and Tech Club and illustrated the College’s award-winning children’s book, “Blaze Goes to College.” 

Parks was also the recipient of KCC’s coveted Trailblazer Award at the Outstanding Bruin Awards ceremony in 2019, an award the College defines as highlighting “a pioneer, someone who has blazed a trail and forged a path for other current and future KCC students.”  

After graduation, Parks illustrated the “Blaze Goes to College” sequel, “Blaze Goes to the RMTC,” and in 2022 graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Game Art and Development.  

Why did you choose your major/area of study? 

I’d been drawn to visual storytelling and entertainment arts my entire life, and knew I wanted to pursue something in that field. Animation, game design and concept design were especially high on my list. Between the options I had, Graphic Design was the best fit since many of its principles were applicable to what I was interested in. No matter where I ended up, I knew what I learned would support me. 

Why did you choose to study your major specifically at KCC? 

I needed a college that was close to home and, considering I was still unsure of what kind of career I wanted, wanted transferable education that would prepare me for whatever I decided to do once I moved out on my own. I’d been to KCC on a tour before, and remember liking what I saw of the Graphic Design Program. Between proximity, finances and alignment with my goals, KCC was the best choice. 

What are you doing now, and how did KCC help you on your path? 

Between my education and the connections I gained, my time at KCC has helped me in more ways than one. My job post-graduation was actually my internship that I’d gotten through KCC. Following that, my transfer credits were essential in earning my bachelor’s. Once I’d moved to Jackson, my qualifications and experience through my internship earned me the graphic design work I did for my most recent employer. And through it all, I was given many freelance animation opportunities through keeping in touch with my animation instructor.  

Today, outside of illustrating the Blaze books, I’m working on building my portfolio and showcasing all the experience I’ve gained thus far, and have been applying to positions in game design and animation. 

What was your favorite part of your time at KCC, and why? 

The community, for sure. Though I’ve always had a shy streak, any time I did interact with my peers was an immensely positive experience. Something about the atmosphere made it easier to connect with other students. Between projects and critiques, we frequently leaned on each other for help, and I had the pleasure of being taught not just by my instructor, but by my classmates, too.  

Speaking of, between instructors, counselors and other staff, I had tremendous support everywhere I went. If I ever needed guidance, advice or some form of encouragement, there was pretty much always someone willing to help. And there was always something going on! Tons of clubs and community activities. Even today whenever I stop by campus, I’ll see students gathered around tables in the bistro talking about clubs, and dozens of flyers for events hung up in the halls. Makes me nostalgic, in a way. 

What’s the most interesting thing you learned at KCC? 

Despite its importance being stressed to me multiple times, I was surprised at how prevalent keeping connections turned out to be. Many of my instructors taught us how important connections are in terms of employment opportunities, finding peers in your field and so on. While I understood, at the time I was unsure how much this advice would help me, specifically, given my more passive tendencies. Lo and behold, most of the opportunities I’ve had the past few years have come from connections through KCC and beyond! 

What advice do you have for current or future KCC students? 

Academics and having career goals are important, yes, so definitely dedicate effort there, but don’t let that get in the way of actually enjoying college. A hard balance to strike sometimes, I know, but aside from being “School Part Two,” college really does have a lot of opportunities to explore, make some friends and get the experience you need to better understand where you want to be in life. Don’t be afraid to try out different clubs or volunteer for something you’re interested in. And along with that point, practice self-care! Classwork can be tough. Work can be tough. It generally doesn’t change once you graduate, and you’d be surprised how easy it is to let personal well-being fall by the wayside when you’ve got a deadline on your mind. Practice healthy habits and get used to putting yourself first now while you’re in school. You’ll thank yourself later.  

Anything else you’d like to say? 

On my last day, I drew a tiny smiley face on the whiteboard in my Graphic Design classroom, and hid it behind a stack of pamphlets that were leaned up on the marker railing. It probably isn’t there anymore. I wonder who found it? 

This article first appeared in the March 2024 edition of BruIN magazine. To read the issue online, please visit kellogg.edu/bruinmagazine.