WNM Student Reps

How Well Do You Know Them? 20 Questions with Your Student Reps

March 16, 2018

by Michael Catanzaro

We are pleased to have two fantastic students representing WNM this semester as our department’s student representatives! Leya Abebe and Quinnton Barringer are eager to help WNM students solve problems, get their questions answered, and generally be successful and make the most of student life while in school here. How well do you know them?


  1. Let’s start with an easy one. How would you describe yourself?

LEYA: I’m pretty open and friendly. I love meeting new people, cracking corny jokes, and learning for fun and study.

QUINN: I like to think that I’m very approachable. I love to make people laugh, and I am a very passionate worker and person.


  1. How long have you lived in the Bay Area?

L: I’ve been living in the Bay [Area] on and off again since the start of my program. (I’ve gone home to MD in the summers.)

Q: I’m an SF native! I lived over by Stern Grove for a while and moved to Sunnyside this past summer.


  1. Where is your favorite place to eat in the Bay Area?

L: For now, there’s this nice little cafe off of 9th and Bryant […] called L’acajou. They have really great food and pastries!

Q: I don’t have extensive knowledge of the East Bay, but my favorite place in SF is probably Ike’s Sandwiches. They’re known for doing crazy delicious, stuffed-to-the-brim type sandwiches and have a few locations scattered throughout the city.


  1. What do you like to do for fun?

L: I love to spend time with friends going to movies, shops, events, and on walks around the city.

Q: I love to be on stage. I did theater and improv all throughout high school and brought that passion here to college. Unfortunately, time only permits me to be in one club, so I spend my Wednesday evenings rehearsing with AAU’s Improv Club. Come check out our shows – they’re free!


  1. Which WNM degree program are you enrolled in?

L: I am an MFA candidate.

Q: I am a BFA student.


  1. What brought you to The School of Web Design & New Media?

L: I wasn’t feeling too happy about my career exploits post-undergrad and realized it was because I wanted to do more creative work. I was interested in web design for some time before entering the program and thought it would be a great program to attend based on the [student] work and great location.

Q: I originally enrolled as a Graphic Design student because I had taken some design pre-college [AE] courses when I was in high school. However, when I found how much I enjoyed coding I transferred [to WNM] and have been much happier with that decision.


  1. How far into the program are you?

L: [I] just passed [MFA] midpoint and am working on my thesis.

Q: I’m two years in. This semester will be my [undergraduate] midpoint review.


  1. What classes are you taking this semester?

L: Group Directed Study: User Experience, the Corporate Sponsored Project [VR Collab] with the Game Development Dept., and Scripting for Video Games 2

Q: Portfolio 1, Web Design 3, Digital Imaging 1, and Urban Sociology


  1. Are you currently working at a job or internship? Or Are you looking for a job or internship?  

L: I’m currently working on a freelance web & mobile design project and will be interning with Airbnb in the summer as a Production Designer. Everything’s going good so far!

Q: I recently started working for a company called Straight Up Technologies. We are a warehouse that stores and ships out tech equipment for large-scale events like sports events and conferences.


  1. What has been your overall favorite class so far?

L: Visual Design Strategy with DC [Scarpelli] was really fun! Students were really engaged in each other’s projects, and I felt much more challenged than usual to be creative. I also got to see some amazing illustrations and designs.

Q: I took a class a couple semesters ago called Film History 3: Contemporary Cinema. The instructor, Jesse Ficks, I can honestly say is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. The class really changed my view not only on film but on life in general. The best part is there are 11 other film history courses, all taught by Jesse. I highly recommend looking into these classes, even if film is not a focus for you.


  1. What class have you struggled the most with?

L: Sadly, [Topics in] Motion Graphics was a really tough class at first. It took a lot of time for me to get the principles and tools down. It’s definitely not a strength, but from the practice, I feel much more comfortable working with motion.

Q: Back when I was still in the Graphic Design curriculum, I took Typography 2 and had a lot of trouble with my projects because I just wasn’t hitting the right note for the instructor. I had to frequently rethink and redo my assignments. In the end, I dedicated many long nights and many cups of coffee to make my projects work to the best of their respective abilities.


  1. There are definitely some challenging classes! What is your advice for a student who is struggling with a class?

L: Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Whatever you’re struggling with, you can get it. It may mean that you need to give that topic more time or speak to your teacher or other peers about how to work through whatever’s hard to understand. Workshops are a great tool, too!

Q: Talk to your teachers! They want to see you succeed just as much as you do. They are there to help; you just need to initiate.


  1. What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself since being a WNM student?

L: With practice, I’m getting better as an overall designer, and that makes me really happy! I didn’t come to the program with a design background, and there was definitely a learning curve [for me]. Since starting, I’ve also gotten much better at coding and have even taken on coding for gaming and VR. It’s super fun!

Q: I love to code. Coming into design school, I thought that I would want to be designing all the time, but the behind-the-scenes of web design has really been like a hidden love and talent of mine.


  1. What do you do when you run into a creative or problem-solving block?

L: I tend to step away from what I’m working on for a little. When I do come back to it, I make sure to be clear that I need to find a workaround or push through what I’m doing. I often listen to lo-fi hip hop playlists on YouTube to block out any distractions as I work.

Q: I like to listen to music, and get inspiration from sites like Pinterest or Designspiration. Often, I’ll see something that will spark my creativity back up again and I’ll just roll with it, and that will snowball into a full idea.


  1. Leya, you’re returning as our graduate student representative. What do you feel you have achieved or gained from your experience as rep so far?

L: I feel way more connected to my department and other students. I find that it’s becoming easier for students to approach me about concerns, and sometimes I can help [them] in the moment, too.


  1. Quinn, you’re new to being a student representative this semester. Is there anything you hope to learn or accomplish in this role?

Q: This position came somewhat unexpected, and to be quite honest, I wasn’t really aware of the student representatives we had in previous semesters. My goal for the coming semesters is to get Leya and myself out there talking with our peers so people have somebody they can talk to.


  1. Do you have any tips for new students?

L: Get to know and build with folks with different skill sets. Your projects don’t have to live only in [a] class […] There are tons of collaborative courses and events you can attend to network. Make sure you attend!

Q: Mustering up the courage to finally talk to somebody, or go to that club, or even answer a question in class is the best way to learn (for me anyway). What’s the worst that could happen?


  1. Are there any groups or clubs you belong to here at The Academy?

L: I used to be in a dance group here, but I picked up a job that conflicted with their schedule. It was super fun when I attended! If I had more free time, I would definitely be more involved in clubs.

Q: As stated, Improv Club! If I had the time, I would love to be in the stage productions, but that doesn’t seem at all possible these days.


  1. Do you have a role model or is there someone you really admire?

L: I’ve come to really admire the teachers here and others that I’ve encountered working in the industry. There’s just a lot of talent out there, and it makes me want to get better at my craft.

Q: My former boss and design legend, Mike Monteiro. I had an internship at his design company, Mule Design, and what I learned there I will carry with me for the rest of my career. Mike speaks very bluntly about things, and I really appreciate that.


  1. Have you thought about career goals or post-graduation plans?

L: I’d love to work as a designer within an internal design team to a tech company or at a really cool design studio here in the Bay. Web/mobile design are my roots but I’d love to expand to VR post grad as well.

Q: My goal for my career […] is to join a design firm as a front-end developer and designer. In a perfect world, I could marry my love of theater and design into a position designing for a community theater or something similar.


  1. Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself, being a student here, living in the Bay Area, being a rep, etc.?

L: Explore! The Bay Area has a lot to it that makes it exciting and notable. I haven’t seen it all, but I’m definitely going to make the time to get more acquainted. Let’s share stories.

Q: There are some amazing food spots in the city, please feel free to come at me for recommendations!


Alright, that’s 20 questions! We hope you learned some interesting tidbits about your spring semester student representatives. If you have questions, concerns, tips, or just want to know what Quinn’s favorite sandwich at Ike’s is (mine is the Pilgrim), here’s how to get in touch with them!


Leya Abebe: mfa.newmedia.rep@art.edu

Quinn Barringer: bfa.newmedia.rep@art.edu


Photos provided by Leya and Quinn.