“Most students listen to guest speakers, and some ask questions, but Heather made the most of what was a guest speaker session in a classroom and used it to serve as a catalyst for what we hope is a long and successful career...”
By Jayna Morris
Assistant Editor, NKU Magazine
A typical week for Heather Witherby is a combination of creating concept art for video games, illustrating 120 designs for a new tabletop game, putting in time as a sales associate at the Cincinnati Zoo, and balancing a full-time class schedule at Northern Kentucky University. And she wouldn’t change a thing.
When the Turpin High School graduate first came to campus, she was an undeclared major with an interest in psychology and a longstanding passion for art. After a little soul searching and a conversation with Career Services, she decided to major in visual communication design.
During her sophomore year, Heather decided to add an entrepreneurial studies minor to her curriculum. She enrolled in an enterprise creation class under Dr. John Clarkin, associate professor of entrepreneurship. During a class with a guest speaker, Heather listened to Chris Bergman, CEO of mobile app company Choremonster, talk about his experience in launching his own business. Interested in pursuing a similar path that combined her varied interests, Heather asked about internship opportunities and how to catapult her career while still in school.
“Most students listen to guest speakers, some ask questions, but Heather made the most of what was a guest speaker session in a classroom and used it to serve as a catalyst for what we hope is a long and successful career,” Clarkin says. “She is a great student with a great work ethic.”
A simple conversation with Chris about internship opportunities led to an invitation to join the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). IGDA is where gaming company owners create connections and discuss concepts for games. Heather went to a local meeting and introduced herself. After just one visit, she landed her first paid internship with Jolly Crouton Media, where she now creates concept art for video games. Currently, Heather is finishing up the concept for two of the characters for the game “Gran, Gramps ‘n Beansie.”
One month later, Heather went to a second meeting with IGDA and was offered another paid internship—this time as a graphic illustrator for Imprint Media. At Imprint, Heather is creating 120 illustration pieces for the tabletop game called Triune, which will be in a book form for distribution to the public once the art is completed. She has copyright on all of her art as well as royalties, she says.
While she loves art and design, Heather also has an interest in social causes. That combination led her to an independent study working with Purposeful Painting, a nonprofit organization that donates proceeds from art sales to local women in need. She’s also designed tattoos and worked on portraits.
Despite her busy schedule, Heather has maintained a 3.9 GPA each semester on campus. And she’ll check another exciting opportunity off her list before she graduates next year. She’s traveling to Ireland during spring break with Dr. Clarkin to learn more about how European countries use graphic design to market to their customers.
Heather is working—and getting paid—at companies where she can grow after graduation. Her path to success began with one simple conversation with a guest speaker in class. Her advice to her fellow NKU students?
“Keep yourself open to opportunities,” Heather says. “That’s how I got both of my jobs. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, try it. You never know what’s going to happen. Keep contact with as many people as you can—it can help open doors for you in the future. I'm so grateful for everything that has happened to get me to where I am today.”