Katelin DeStefano ’10
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Katelin DeStefano ’10 had to warm up to Syracuse—literally. “When you have a few weeks that don’t get above 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the biggest blizzard in 20 years during your first winter in the ’Cuse, you learn to tough it out,” she says. “My first two years were very challenging for me, but my last two years were some of the best ones of my life. SU was a drastic change for me at first, but it really paid off in the long run.”
As DeStefano became more comfortable with her surroundings, she came to appreciate SU’s rich diversity and wealth of offerings around campus. “Oregon, while a lovely place to grow up, is not the most diverse place in the world. At SU I could look so far beyond my own culture, interests, and activities because I had friends involved in different organizations all over campus, from experiencing my first Passover with friends at the Hillel Center, to taking part in Greek life,” she says. “I never regretted going to student-hosted activities, because they were always fun, interactive, and educational. I think pushing my social circles to places I never expected helped me to relate with almost anyone once I graduated.”
DeStefano earned her degree in advertising design from the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), and she knew she wanted to move to San Francisco. But without any personal contacts in the Bay Area, the move proved to be more challenging than expected. “I had no problem finding an internship at Live Nation that started a few weeks after graduation, but entering the workforce in the middle of the economic slump made it difficult to get hired full time,” DeStefano says. “I started working with a creative placement agency called The Creative Group, and they helped me find contract graphic design work at companies like Minted and Williams Sonoma.”
Working with the placement agency really paid off in June 2011, when DeStefano landed an entry-level design job at Western Athletic Clubs, a network of properties offering fitness facilities, personal training, spa, child care, retail shops, cafés, pools, water parks, tennis, squash, social events, and more.
Fondly referring to the organization as her “perfect match,” both DeStefano and Western Athletic Clubs have grown exponentially over the past couple years. Expanding beyond the fitness industry, Western Athletic Clubs is pioneering into the hospitality market as a network of California full-service resorts. For DeStefano this meant constant challenges and new responsibilities. She’s quickly advanced from handling minor projects like creating programming fliers and e-mail blasts to designing and coordinating all of the company’s internal campaigns (5-6 of them a year), print advertising, billboards, and direct mail reaching hundreds of thousands of people.
DeStefano thanks her educators and mentors from VPA for giving her the ability and confidence to succeed as a designer. “I am extremely grateful for the education and skill I received from SU, but more specifically from VPA. When I entered the workforce I felt like my technical skills were equal to or above those within 5-10 years of me, and my design eye was beyond some of my superiors,” She says. “Knowing these fundamentals in composition, color, balance, and typography allowed me to succeed and quickly advance from an entry-level position to a lead designer and key member of my marketing team.”
Today DeStefano maintains ties to VPA in the spirit of giving back. “The technology and equipment I accessed at VPA was invaluable in my success after graduation. In today’s ever-changing digital landscape, funding is needed to keep that technology stay relevant for the next generation of students,” she says. “I think it’s extremely important to make sure they have the same opportunities I did.”