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Rachel Zhou – Member Spotlight

Rachel Zhou, Graphic Design, Certificate in Product Innovation, VCU Class of 2017 graduate

What made you interested in the VCU da Vinci Center?
I began da Vinci when I was a sophomore and I joined because I wanted more opportunities to meet students from different majors and backgrounds. Being in graphic design, I only had the chance to be in class with other graphic design majors and I really wanted to work and meet people from other schools. So, when I heard about VCU da Vinci Center, it got me really excited to work with people from Engineering, Business and the Humanities and Sciences. That was the main reason why I joined the VCU da Vinci Center.

Which undergraduate certificate did you receive?

I graduated with the Product Innovation certificate, which mostly focuses on how to develop a successful product and teaches you how to brand and market it. If I had only stayed in the art program, I would have only learned how to design a product, but being in the Product Innovation track I also learned how to build and market it. The track combines all these different areas into one, which I loved.

What was your favorite project that you worked on?

I really enjoyed the project I worked on in my engineering class where we had to redesign a bicycle part for someone with a disability. My team was assigned a person who had left hand nerve damage. We made a game app that helps them practice riding a bicycle to make them feel comfortable riding again safely.

What does innovation mean to you?

To me, innovation means taking steps forward into the future, to constantly improve the current standards, to use creativity and ingenuity to improve the world, to seek better methods, to create more opportunities for future exploration and to pave the way for future generations.

How has the da Vinci Center impacted your life?

The da Vinci Center has provided me with opportunities that would not have been possible by staying in my major alone. I really treasure these memories with my groups because even though we came from totally different backgrounds we learned how to work together. Being able to interact with students of various backgrounds, combining our skills and problem solving together, taught me about respect and appreciation.

What was the most important lesson that you learned in the da Vinci program?

As cliche as it sounds, it taught me that “Dream Bigger” should not be treated as a throwaway phrase. It is incredibly important life advice. In da Vinci there are so many supportive programs, such as pop-up pitches and the accelerator program, for students to always pursue their dreams. The program encouraged me to go after my own goals, and I felt supported the whole way through. Always take risks, though i may not always achieve, as long as i try hard enough I will always learn something in the process.

How do you think that this program will help you as you move forward in the future?

I definitely learned about teamwork and how to work with people who don’t always have the same mindset or skillset as me. In a professional setting, I learned how to turn my specific set of skills into something helpful for my teammates

When you hear the words VCU da Vinci Center, what is the first thing you think of?

I think of creativity, ingenuity, very supportive staff members and a great place to find yourself. I don’t think of home because home is more of a comfort zone, da Vinci pushed me outside my comfort zone. Nothing is impossible with da Vinci!

What’s next for you?

I will be attending the VCU Brandcenter in the fall for its Experience Design track. The program is two-years long. I’m excited about meeting my future classmates and working with them during the next phase of my life. For the summer, I’m working as Graduate Assistant for Graphic Design at University Student Commons and Activities while working on personal projects on the side.

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