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BSU commencement: BSU grad lands dream job

Samantha Thibert graduates today from Bemidji State University with a double major in design technology and marketing communication. Thibert, from Red Lake Falls, has worked part-time for four years as a graphic designer with the BSU publications and marketing office. She has landed her dream job with an exhibit-design firm in Indianapolis, she said. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Samantha Thibert stalked the employment opportunities at an Indianapolis exhibit-design firm for three years.

Two weeks ago, she landed her dream job at that company, Hamilton Exhibits.

"When I was all done with the interview, the creative director drove me to the airport. He was helping me get my bags out, and he’s like, ‘Oh, wait, by the way,’ and he opened the glove compartment and gave me an envelope and said, ‘When you have time, read this,’" she said.

Thibert made it to the gate, waiting to board the plane, before she opened the envelope, hoping it was a job offer. It was.

"They have a great reputation … and they sound like a really creative company," she said. "When I met them, they were amazing and really supportive about being creative and doing your work."

Thibert, after five years at BSU, today will be among about 1,000 of the university’s graduates invited to take part in commencement at the Sanford Center.

Thibert double majored in design technology (emphasizing in exhibit, print and web design) and marketing communication; she minored in art.

"I’m going to be sad to leave, but I’ve excited about the next stage (in life)," she said.

‘An artist’

The Red Lake Falls native came to Bemidji purposefully planning to go into the design program.

"In kindergarten, I remember doing this big yellow Tagboard star that said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up," she said. "I don’t know if it’s because I knew that’s what I wanted to do, or if I’m just stubborn, but I’ve always been into the arts."

Once at BSU, she was new to exhibit design but the idea of designing in three dimensions intrigued her.

"It’s a passion. You have to love it," she said. "I love the challenges. It can be frustrating, but it can be so rewarding when you finally figure it out, like putting a puzzle together."

In exhibit design, she designs 3D structures and spaces for events such as auto or trade shows and spaces for retail stores, kiosks or specialty events. She designs computer mock-ups of a space and ensures the execution by working with builders and designers.

"I fell in love with it over the years," she said. "Sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship but it’s definitely worth it, and I’m excited to finally start working in the industry."

‘My top pick’

Thibert has compiled a resume throughout her collegiate years in preparation for entering the workforce. For four years, she has worked part-time as a graphic designer with the BSU publications and marketing office and also interned two summers ago as a graphic and exhibit designer with Star Exhibits in Minneapolis.

She is a past recipient of BSU’s Exhibitor Media Group Student Achievement Award and has served both as vice president and president of the university’s exhibit club.

Thibert began looking for work this past winter, applying to companies in cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, Seattle and Minneapolis.

"You have to be in a larger city to do this type of work," she said.

Thibert’s personality, experience, and double major and academics apparently struck a chord with potential employers: She had her choice of multiple job offers.

But it was Hamilton, who three years ago hired fellow BSU graduate Aric Furfaro, that most appealed to her.

"That was my top pick; I had been watching that company for the last three years, so it’s very exciting," she said. "I just applied. I didn’t know that they had a position open. I applied just in case and, yeah, they were looking but just hadn’t posted it yet. It was perfect."

Furfaro, a Bemidji native, joined Hamilton in July 2010, a couple of months after graduating from BSU.

"I just had a wonderful experience in the exhibit design program (at BSU)," he said. "Everything, from the professors to the material that we covered, to the job-placing experience, it was all a smooth transition."

Furfaro said he got to know Thibert some during her early years in the program, which provides students with work opportunities by making connections with industry professionals. Company representatives are bought in to review student portfolios and hear their presentations. Students also travel to Las Vegas to participate in Exhibitor, a national conference and trade show.

It was at Exhibitor that the Hamilton design director first met Thibert, interviewing her among about 25 students, Furfaro said.

"We really felt that Samantha was a good fit for the Hamilton culture and the way that our creative department works together," Furfaro said. "(Hamilton) is not too strict, but you need to be able to compromise and work together.

"Samantha just has the perfect personality to fit in here."

‘The big city’

Moving to Indianapolis will be a huge change, Thibert acknowledged, but she made one such leap already.

"Even Bemidji was a big step for me," she said. "In Red Lake Falls, you have to drive 25 minutes to the nearest stop light to take your driver’s test. It’s a small town, so when I came to Bemidji, it was like the big city for me."

Red Lake Falls, with a population of 1,427, according to the 2010 Census, is a fraction of the size of Bemidji, with a population of 13,431. But Indianapolis, at 820,445, dwarfs both.

Her boyfriend of more than three years, Michael Torgerson, a 2010 BSU graduate, works as a front-end manager for a Sam’s Club in the Twin Cities. He is considering moving with her, perhaps transferring within his company later this year.

"He’s excited. He knows that I really wanted to work for the company," Thibert said. "If it works out, he’ll be right behind me."

BSU graduation

When: 2 p.m. today

Where: Sanford Center

Notes: No tickets required; seating is first-come, first-served; parking is free but carpooling is recommended