Undergraduate, Alumni

Convocation Feature: Mary Bazira

October 03, 2022

Mary joined SIAT in 2016 and quickly discovered her love for design. While at SIAT, she took part in the 2022 italiaDesign field school, a highlight of her undergraduate experience, and also completed an 11-month product design internship with the New York Times. Following her graduation this week with a Bachelor of Arts, Mary will be moving to New York to work full-time at the New York Times where she has been offered a position as a product designer.

Learn more about Mary's time in SIAT.

About Mary

In high school, I always loved design and anything to do with art. This was reflected in all the subjects that I took. When I was accepted into Simon Fraser University in the Fall of 2016, the SIAT program felt like the closest fit for me, as it would allow me to explore my design interests further.

As a program, SIAT exposed me to a wide variety of digital art forms. After my second year, I decided to concentrate in Media Arts with the intention of focusing on filmmaking or videography. However, I ended up switching to the Design concentration once I realized I could gain more from this specialization based on my career objectives.

In 2018, I started practicing design outside of my coursework and was briefly involved with Beedie’s Student Marketing Association (SMA) as a Visual Communication Coordinator for their annual Marketing in Focus event. I also became a part-time creative director for an up-and-coming magazine that lends a voice to Black girls between the ages of 8 and 12 years old.

Freelance design work became an important and great pastime for me in between semesters. More opportunities started to come my way over the course of my studies, and it was especially helpful that I could do remote projects during the global pandemic.

Finally, in my very last semester, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in one of SIAT’s design field schools—italiaDesign. This was a highlight of the program for me. It was a goal that the global pandemic almost derailed, but I am thankful that it worked out in the end.

Why did you choose SIAT for your studies?

For the longest time, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in architecture. However, with no undergraduate architecture program in BC at the time I graduated high school, and not really knowing what program to enroll into as a substitute, I chose SIAT. It felt like the closest fit to my interests and would potentially contribute towards my architecture ambition. I found comfort in the fact that SIAT offered different concentrations, which would allow me to take some extra time to figure out what I wanted to do for the next few years.

Did you have a favourite SIAT course or instructor and if so, why?

IAT 233 Spatial Design, which I took in 2018 under the instruction of Russell Taylor. Because of my interest in architecture, this course was a very exciting and eye-opening introduction to both visual design and spatial design. I will never forget the many nights we spent in Studios A and C making paper models of renowned architectural buildings, and the end-of-semester trip down to Seattle, WA for the Design Charette.

Since then, Russell Taylor has been my course instructor multiple times, as well as a supportive mentor to me throughout my SIAT journey culminating with the field school. I am grateful for his guidance.

I also want to mention IAT 333 Interaction Design Methods with professor Will Odom and IAT 309W Writing Methods for Research with Chantal Gibson as instructors. Beyond their fantastic teaching styles, I learned a lot from these courses and saw some of the biggest improvements in my course and personal work after taking them.

What was the highlight of your undergraduate career?

Over the past six years there have been so many highlights—more than I could mention here. However, the italiaDesign Field School, which I participated in just this past summer, stands out the most. I know I will be sharing about this experience for a long time.

The two months we spent immersing ourselves in Italian culture were at times challenging, but unforgettable. Living in Italy like a local rather than a tourist made the trip more special than I could have imagined. It allowed me to appreciate the things I know I would have overlooked as a tourist. It was also very special to learn from and be in the presence of such influential Italian designers, whom we had spent much time and effort researching beforehand.

What did you enjoy most about the SIAT community?

SIAT students know how to have fun no matter what. There were many long nights spent on campus that could have been miserable, but were not because of the general positivity and excitement for what we were doing.

It was encouraging to be “in it together” with fellow classmates pulling all-nighters. In fact, some of those nights are the moments that I will treasure the most.

What’s more, SIAT students show up for each other. In my opinion, the best example of this is every semester-end of Russell Taylor’s IAT 438 User Experience Design course, where students from all years attend the final crit to learn from and support their peers, and alumni return as guest critics to offer advice and guidance. This is where I feel SIAT’s community spirit shows up the strongest. It was even more important and special during my semester of IAT 438 in 2020, when everything was operating remotely because of the global pandemic, and many peers and alumni still showed up to support us.

What is next on the horizon for you after graduating?

I recently completed an 11-month product design internship at The New York Times, with an offer of a full-time position when I graduate. So, I am moving to New York City for work. I am extremely excited and grateful for this opportunity, even though it will take me far from home.

Any advice for incoming students considering SIAT?

Don’t give up! It sounds cliche, but for me, it was only in my last year of SIAT that I felt things started to fall into place. Design can be challenging, but if you stay motivated, focused, and work hard, you can find yourself in places you never would have imagined.