Creativity, versatility have LU grad poised for success
Jessica Leicht is the epitome of a creative.
The recent Lakeland graduate’s list of involvement and accomplishments seems to include something from every list of available options for LU students, with a heavy emphasis on creating:
“Monique (Brickham, LU’s graphic design professor) likes to call me a jack of all trades,” Leicht said. “Any college experience you get four years to experience what you can, and I wanted to get the most out of it. I’ve learned to squeeze certain things in and learned how to say no to things.
“I have followed where my whims have taken me. It’s worked out for me. I just wanted to create things.”
Leicht will bring to her employer a formidable skillset that was honed through classroom work, her Co-Op experiences and her extracurriculars.
Her time as a designer at Masters Gallery Foods started when she was a student at nearby Sheboygan Falls High School through a youth apprenticeship that morphed into a Co-Op experience.
“Masters helped me learn the software and intersect my skills with what they needed,” Leicht said. “It helped me get comfortable with the professional world. I was there almost four years, and it was a hard one to let go, but I needed to branch out and get uncomfortable.”
Next came Generations and design work for a non-profit organization that included a new primary brochure, promotions for events and some video production. At the Sheboygan Symphony, Leicht created marketing materials, concert programs and content for social media. Unlike Generations, the SSO had brand guidelines that she was required to work within, and that aided her development.
Her jobs at Generations and the SSO were paid through the non-profit division of Launch: Lakeland Student-Run Businesses, which helps non-profits that have limited budgets fund additional staff.
“That’s a Godsend for a lot those non-profit organizations to get brochures made, web updates and other work from someone with more background than they have,” Leicht said. “It’s unbelievable how they work with few people and take care of all the things they have to do. They’re amazing people.”
Home Away from Home
Getting comfortable being uncomfortable has been a theme for Leicht’s time at Lakeland, and it dates back to her last two years at Sheboygan Falls High when she started getting more involved, especially in music and tennis.
As part of the college search process, she initially thought she wanted to “go away” to school like her fraternal twin sister. Staying involved in music and tennis was a priority, and Evan Chancellor, Lakeland’s instrumental music professor and band director, and Tammy Utley, who at that time was LU head women’s tennis coach, helped her see the experience she could have at Lakeland.
“I dug into the digital media programs in Wisconsin and liked what Monique was doing,” Leicht said. “I liked the small-town feel. Tennis was one of the main things that helped me coming into Lakeland. I was a freshman and it helped me get involved. Band has been the thing to connect me with people. It’s been fun being able to continue music and sports in college and make those connections here.”
Lakeland’s honors program challenged her way of thinking and her approach to her work. Her mental health video was born during a freshman honors seminar that studied mental health and illness. Her sophomore year included a directed reading on how people’s creativity differs.
“Based on that premise, it’s finding ways for me to challenge myself to think about things differently,” Leicht said. “Designers will develop a style, and I try to force myself out of styles to find something new and different.”
Although a fixture on campus, Leicht was a commuter for three of her four years at LU, living her sophomore year at Gould Hall.
“I basically live here without living here,” she said with a smile. “Lakeland helped me find a place I can thrive. My parents never saw me because I was always here.”
Financial aid to pay for school was also a factor in her decision. At LU, her Co-Op jobs and scholarships provided more than $20,000 annually to help pay for school and leave her with little debt upon graduation.
“Those scholarships were a huge help towards achieving my dreams,” she said. “They allowed me to have the funds to pursue other opportunities at Lakeland, like my internships, tennis and music.”
Leicht hopes to find a job at an agency to test her skills in a rapidly paced setting. She enjoys learning new techniques and would especially like to dig more into UX (user experience) design and explore website and app design.
She also plans to continue to grow as a person, and she appreciates the evolution she’s experienced at Lakeland and the people who helped make it possible.
“I’m learning how to be more confident with myself,” Leicht said. “I struggled in high school and came into Lakeland not knowing myself. My friends along the way have helped me with that. I’m not the same person I was when I was a freshman.
“My friends in the music program have especially had a big impact on me. These individuals found ways to push me and create a family type setting that makes it really exciting to come back every day and learn.”