Students Show Leadership as They Plan for the Future

Thursday, April 1 2010

Written by Amanda Cairo

College of Art and Architecture Students Display Their Best Work

MOSCOW, Idaho ¬– A portfolio just may be the most important tool a student in the University of Idaho’s College of Art and Architecture needs, but the skills to put one together may be even more vital.

Recognizing that, students in the college took initiative to organize a Portfolio Challenge this spring to learn the skills, showcase their work and receive feedback from professionals. Their portfolios debut for the public on April 23.

“For every aspect of the program, you need a portfolio,” said Moscow’s Nicole Helbling, landscape architecture senior. “You need one to be accepted into the program, you need one for assessment of your learning midway through and you need one to present yourself in the job market.”

While she stressed that a portfolio is essential, Helbling said the skills to build a portfolio are not taught as a standalone subject in the college. She and fellow landscape architecture senior Céline McClure, of Boise, created a lecture series specific to portfolio development to supplement and build from what students learn in their design classes, with a Portfolio Challenge to highlight the work as a public event in April.

“The students have done a wonderful job organizing and planning the series and Portfolio Challenge,” said Mark Hoversten, dean of the College of Art and Architecture. “I am pleased we have students of this caliber to encourage our students to go above and beyond.”

The students cited the support of the dean and his staff as being instrumental in organizing the series and challenge.

McClure and Helbling organized three key lectures and a workshop, led by college faculty, to help students build a portfolio. The challenge offers students incentive and the opportunity to receive feedback from professionals in the field. Professional university alumni on the College of Art and Architecture Advisory Board will judge the portfolios.

McClure and Helbling also incorporated their entire college: architecture, landscape architecture, virtual design and technology, interior design, art and design students.

“Céline and I wanted to cover broad topics that would benefit all students in the college,” said Helbling. “We are an integrated group and we identified portfolio development as a common need in our professions.”

While students have work from their classes to pull into their portfolios, McClure said the workshops will help personalize and make them unique.

“Your portfolio is a representation of your skills and your work; it’s the first impression you give potential employers,” McClure said.

Helbling and McClure were in their junior year when they realized a portfolio’s importance.
Helbling sent in her resume for an internship, and when they asked her for a portfolio, she had to make one quickly. She ended up as the runner-up for the position.

“I had products from class, but it’s so hard to package them,” said Helbling. “I felt like I really needed some guidance to put a portfolio together effectively.”

As they became student leaders in the student chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects, they found a solution in the college’s advisory board. The board comes to campus twice a year and spends one day with students. During one of those visits, the idea of the Portfolio Challenge and critique was born.

“The advisory board was very interested in becoming involved with the students,” said McClure. “We need guidance and assistance for our portfolios; they’re our connection to the outside world.”

The portfolios will be available for viewing Friday, April 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Ridenbaugh Gallery, at the corner of Blake and Campus Drive in Moscow. Final judging will be performed by the advisory board.

“The feedback is really important, you need to know what professionals are looking for and how they react to portfolios,” said McClure.

When employers receive hundreds of portfolios for a job opening, Helbling said anything to give students a leg up is beneficial. In addition, a series like this helps employers recognize university students’ talent and willingness to go above and beyond.

The challenge event wraps up with the Beaux’s Arts Ball on Friday, April 23, at 7 p.m. in the 1912 Center, 412 East Third St. in Moscow, as a fundraiser for interior design students. Winners of the portfolio challenge will also be announced in 10 categories: best hardcopy, digital and non-traditional for entrance, graduate and professional levels and best in show overall.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

Media Contact: Amanda Cairo, University Communications and Marketing, (208) 885-6259,

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit