This edition of Who Makes Millersville Special features Jeri Robinson, professor of art and design and co-director of the Entrepreneurship Minor.
Q: Where are you originally from?
Buffalo, New York
Q: How did you become interested in studying art and graphic design?
I was always interested in making things with my hands. I took every art class possible in high school and spent summers taking photographs and crafting. I was a huge fan of Andy Warhol. I was the first person in my blue collar family to attend college, so it was thought that I was going to major in something that would result in a job. The idea of learning for the sake of learning and becoming a person capable of higher-level thinking was not in our vocabulary. Therefore, I elected to major in graphic design.
Q: From what school(s) have you earned your degree(s)?
I originally attended Villa Maria College, a two-year school in Cheektowaga, N.Y., because a bachelor’s degree seemed out of reach for someone from my family background. I then transferred to Buffalo State College and was completely lost in the system. Buffalo State had approximately 15,000 students, and as a transfer student, I did not feel comfortable in my choices. My advisor was relatively absent and I did not fulfill my requirements, so when it was time to graduate, I found out that I had eight credits in the wrong place. I decided to leave Buffalo State at that time. That sounds like a terrible idea, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I worked for a podiatrist as an assistant for the following year and realized that all I wanted was a career in the arts. I raced back to school as a transfer, yet again, to the State University College at Purchase, just 25 miles north of Manhattan. At that time, students were required to take two years’ worth of course work at a school in order to graduate from that institution. That meant that I had another two years of coursework (rather than eight credits at Buffalo State). Since I had taken the majority of my required design and general education classes prior, I was able to focus on any art and design coursework that I wanted. I ended up taking an Offset Lithography course which changed my life. I started to learn about Artist’s Books and started to combine my graphic design skills with printmaking and narrative art works. I earned my BFA from SUNY College at Purchase and then attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I earned my MFA degree in printmaking.
Q: How many years have you been at Millersville?
I just completed my 23rd year at MU.
Q: What classes have you taught during your time at Millersville?
Quite a few. I’ll try to remember all of them: 2D Design, 3D Design, Drawing I, Typography I, Intro to Computer Art, Advanced Computer Art, Grad Level Computer Art, Web and Multimedia Art, Intro to Computers in Design, Advanced Computers in Design, Graduate Level Computers in Design, Intro to Digital Theory and Skills, Visual Communications I, Professional Seminar and Exhibition, Artist’s Books (Fall 2015), Survey Printmaking, Grad Level Fiber Arts, Creativity, Innovation, and Engagement (Special Topics Course for Women’s Studies and the Entrepreneur Minor), Entrepreneur Practicum (for the Entrepreneur Minor), Independent Study courses in Fiber Arts (knitting, spinning, weaving, and crochet), Numerous Teacher Education Workshops for K-12 educators and I was chair of the department for nine years.
Q: Do you have a favorite class to teach at Millersville? Why?
I actually love the variety of courses I teach because it makes me keep my fingers on the pulse of a wide variety of topics in art and design and entrepreneurship. I like to mix things up and try new things.
Q: How did you get involved in the new entrepreneurial minor?
When the position became available for the director of the minor, I thought it would be something that interested me because I teach the business of art to students in our department. Additionally, in connection to my scholarly activities, I own a fiber arts business, and therefore I understand first-hand what it takes to run a business. Ultimately, my focus is on the creative side of entrepreneurial endeavors. Nancy Mata (art and design) and I make a great team as co-directors of the Entrepreneur Minor. I really enjoy helping the students turn their dreams into a reality. Our students continue to amaze me with their creativity, work ethic and desires.
Q: Do you still do graphic design outside of the classroom?
Yes. I pick and choose the jobs that I want since I don’t do this for the money. Instead, I work for nonprofit associations such as the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeders Association. I also do the majority of design work for my business, Flying Fibers.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?
Working with my sheep, rabbits, horse, dogs and cats. My sheep are rare breed North American Wensleydale, which originated in England. They are a wool breed of sheep, and I use their wool for dyeing, spinning, knitting and felting. I love the fact that I know exactly where my products are coming from. The rest of the animals just make me happy.
Q: How do you want students to remember you?
First and foremost, I want my students to think of me as being compassionate and there for them, whatever their learning needs and desires.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The students. If it weren’t for the students, I would not be in higher education.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote?
“Wherever you go, there you are” – Buddha, Confucius. It reminds me to be happy in the moment.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?
My family. We came together from all over the world. My husband is from England, and my two daughters are from Russia and India. We prove that people from various backgrounds and ethnicities can all come together and love each other fully and wholly.
Q: If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?
In another life, I would have chosen to be a farmer and large-animal veterinarian.