Graphic Design Student Graduates with 4.0 GPA, Receives Board of Trustees’ Award

Sydney Tomlinson, a December 2023 Michigan State University graduate with a BFA in Graphic Design from the College of Arts & Letters and a B.A. in Creative Advertising from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and an Honors College graduate, completed her undergraduate education with a perfect 4.0 GPA, earning her the Board of Trustees’ Award.

Tomlinson is among the 62 December 2023 MSU graduates to receive the Board of Trustees’ Award, which recognizes their academic excellence for achieving the highest scholastic average one can receive.

Sydney Tomlinson (Photo by Nick Schrader)

These outstanding students were presented with the Board of Trustees’ Award during the Dec. 15 MSU Board of Trustees meeting. In addition to being recognized by the Board of Trustees, the graduates also were acknowledged during the December commencement ceremonies and received $1,000 from the university for their accomplishments.

Find out more about Tomlinson, her MSU education and experiences, in this Q&A she completed just a few days after celebrating her graduation at MSU’s commencement ceremonies on Dec. 16.

What are your overall thoughts on your MSU education?

As I think back through the years I’ve spent at the most wonderful school, I can’t help but think about the amazing professors who helped me get to where I am today. Above all, I would like to thank Benjamin Van Dyke for pushing me when I didn’t want or think I needed it. Although I’ve always possessed a great deal of perfectionism, he taught me to continue to question because there is no such thing as perfection.

What have been some of the highlights of your time at MSU?

One of my most fond memories from my time at MSU was being a section leader in the Izzone, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in basketball to apply. It is a community like no other, and it is a way to connect with students of all majors, yet you have something in common: a love for MSU basketball! I hope I never forget what it felt like to sit behind the score table, to hear the deafening roar of the crowd after Tyson drained a three, or to turn to my best friend Nicole, jaw-dropped, after a monumental dunk. I wish I could do it all again because somehow, even after four years, I don’t feel like I lived it enough.

Sydney Tomlinson (front row far left) with all the other Izzone section leaders from the 2022-2023 season.

Did you do any study abroad or internships? What were those experiences like?

I completed many internships during my time at MSU. My first ever position was as Graphic Design Assistant for the MSU Honors College. I owe so much of my confidence and success thereafter to Bess German, who offered a young aspiring designer the foot in the door she needed to grow in her desired profession. In this position, I was given a lot of freedom, which, at first, was quite overwhelming, but I soon came to realize how much it would allow me to explore my capabilities and learn about myself as a designer. Soon after, I was hired for my first summer internship with The Kresge Foundation in Troy, Michigan, as a Digital Communications Intern. I still accredit much of my success to the work I was able to complete during this internship. When I was hired as a Social Media Design Intern at MSU University Communications the following school year, my boss later confessed that the summer-long project I had poured my heart and soul into at Kresge was the very thing that convinced him I was the right person for the job.

For the last year and a half, I have been designing for MSU’s institutional channels on social media, and I have loved every second of it. I owe so much to my supervisor, Anthony Siciliano, for his unwavering support in my growth as a designer. Through this position, I have been able to fill my portfolio with great volumes of work that I am extremely proud to show. It is probably one of the most unforgettable internships I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

Lastly, I was given the opportunity to intern with SET SEG this past summer and have stayed on as a part-time designer for the time being. Over the summer, I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting fellow students and working with them on a summer-long project. I was able to make meaningful connections with my peers, even indulging in after-work activities with them, such as kickball, ping pong, and social get togethers.

Overall, my internships have been extremely fulfilling and, especially in the field of design, they proved to be quite influential in the learning process. I would encourage anyone to consider applying for internships because you will learn even more than you can in the classroom, and you can get paid while doing it!

Sydney Tomlinson (right) with her best friend and fellow Izzone section leader Nicole Grganto, who is the very first person Tomlinson met when she first came to MSU and that was at the College of Arts & Letters convocation.

How do you feel MSU has prepared you for your career?

Before coming to MSU, I didn’t even know what the Adobe Creative Suite was, let alone graphic design! I feel that the education I received from MSU gave me a steady knowledge base to grow from, and all the added little things I experienced along the way have been like mini life lessons to learn from and carry with me. It’s things like learning how to be yourself, unapologetically, and being okay with some people not liking it. While it seems small, the impact can be extremely profound, and if you are confident in yourself, there’s no telling what you can accomplish.

What are your thoughts on receiving the Board of Trustees’ Award?

While my grade point average speaks to the great deal of effort I have put into my professional growth thus far, a 4.0 is not an endpoint. It is a milestone. I am proud to have received such an esteemed award, but I know that it doesn’t stop there.

What are your plans post-graduation?

Immediately following the last week of classes, both my internship with SET SEG and with University Communications transitioned into part-time positions. Combined, I am working full-time as a graphic designer in both roles while looking for more opportunities to propel my career to greater heights. I hope to cherish the time I still have left with MSU because I couldn’t imagine a better place to be, or a better group of people to work with. To Anthony, Nick, and Ellen — thank you for everything.

Woman in a green graduation cap and gown with a white dress.
Sydney Tomlinson (Photo by Nick Schrader)