A Lantern Across the Sky

Our journey of learning and friendship

It is a clear night, filled with stars in the sky. We are gathered around a fire an hour and a half away from our apartments in the different boroughs of New York City. And we couldn't be happier. Our chatter fills the air. A sky lantern is brought out and we each doodle or write a little something on it. Everyone gets quiet as the lantern is lit and floats up, shining bright in the speckled night sky.

We know that this night is the last time we'll see each other together as a large group for some time. Just a little over a week ago, we graduated from the School of Visual Arts with an MFA in Interaction Design completing our two years of the program.

SVA’s IxD Class of 2015 is Aastha Bhargava, Amy Wu, Anke Stohlmann, Dami You, Effy Zhang, Hanna Yoon, Jeffrey Gochman, Leroy Tellez, Luke Stern, Matt Brigante, Melody Quintana, Michie Cao, Mikey Chen, Minsun Mini Kim, Nga Nguyen, Sam Carmichael, Sam Wander, Sarah Henry, Sneha Pai, Sunnie Sang, and Trent Thompson. Photos by Effy Zhang

When going into any education program there’s a sense of expectations, generally speaking, of what you'll learn, what you'll do when you are finished, and how you can use that education. None of that applied to us coming in our program. What even is interaction design? With our diverse backgrounds and experience, there was a nervous tension, but we opened ourselves to everything.

Our intro to the program started with an intense session of cybernetics. Over that week, questions came up on whether we got into the right graduate program or if we were good enough to even be a part of this program. We were working on and learning about concepts and materials that we never had to deal with before. Quickly, we became very social with one another and encouraged each other not to give up.

Our first year had us running through the gauntlet. Physical computing, researching methods, programming, prototyping, entrepreneurial design, and much more. We started to make the bond of the class more concrete. We offered our strengths and asked for help on where we were lacking. “I’m having a hard time telling the story. What do you think?” “Do you know how to use After Effects?” “Can you help me with this pressure sensor? Am I missing something in my code?”

Photo by Michie Cao

Everyone was motivated to do great work, because day in and day out you would see everyone in the studio busting their ass on their projects. Questioning and refining. The stress and work were relentless.

Somehow we got through it. Summer was now here. With all that learning and work done, we were getting fantastic jobs for the summer. The summer break was well earned. The time off and the better sense of one’s career boosted our confidence for what was to come. Thesis.

It was a real joy to get everyone back together after the few months of summer break. This was it — our final year. Excited and anxious we dived into the semester. Within the first few weeks we started to realize some issues with our classes, most notably in our thesis class. As the semester went further along, the problems became more and more apparent. The class as a whole started to breakdown. We became lost with our direction of our thesis. That lack of focus led to work not getting done and us becoming more and more fearful.

Video by Luke Stern

Something had to be done. So, we came together and took responsibility for our education. We started to make our own classes outside of our class schedule, work, and life. We brought food and drinks. Extensive time was given to each other to explain and express their thesis. Each of us would give our thoughts of directions, questions to ask or tackle, people to talk to, and we explored different methods of research. All of this feedback was documented and sent to each person. If a few people couldn't make it to the larger group session, so we made side groups throughout the week.

The thesis sessions we designed were awesome. We decided we needed to help the department deliver what we wanted out of the program. All of us gave input on the problems and solutions that would work towards the goal we wanted. A plan was formed. This plan was sent to our chair, Liz Danzico. It was extremely important to us that we have a conversation over how we could move the program forward. We set a meeting during the week outside of our class schedule. Not a single person was absent for the meeting. This department and the work we were doing within it was important to us.

This was a defining moment for us. We came together and made stuff happen.

Video by Sunnie Sang

A bit worried, to put it quite mildly, we were in our final semester. Whirlwind. Eric Foreman was brought on board leading our thesis. And we worked with fury, making up for lost time. But every week we made sure to decompress with with great food, drink, and our conversations.

Blazing through, we finalized our thesis and presented it to the public.

The very next day, we graduated.

Photo by Becki B.

We are a passionate group, running through the gamut of emotions during our journey together. Scared, happy, confused, angry, joyous, crying, and laughing. What has been key to our bond is that we always were willing to care and learn from one another.

Around the fire, we revel in our company. We created a family. One that we are proud to be a part of. And now, we are coming to that point where we are pulled in various and amazing directions. As the sky lantern ascends, our silence grows. We feel one another’s anxiousness of what’s to come next.

The lantern burns across the starry night sky going ever further and higher, until we can no longer see it.

Photo by Sunnie Sang