Graphic Design Student Lands Internship with Advertising Agency in Boise
Gia Mazzarella is a fourth-year student at the University of Idaho earning a B.F.A. in Studio Art and Design alongside a minor in Advertising. With an emphasis in Graphic Design, she is currently the editor-in-chief of U of I’s own Blot Magazine.
Before being admitted into the University of Idaho’s Art and Design program in 2020, Gia didn’t have a specific career in mind. “I started out freshman year [undeclared] for a semester because I just wanted to explore the options,” she said. For someone who has “always been crafty,” Gia said she didn’t realize she could turn her artistic passions into a lifelong career until she got to U of I. “In high school, I took some photography classes and got introduced to design through yearbook,” she explained. “There's a lot of people that fall in the same category as me who have that passion and are looking to turn it into a career.”
She has received several academic and art-related scholarships each year she’s attended U of I, specifically citing the Robert J. Harder Memorial Art Scholarship.
From the very beginning, Gia was determined to take every opportunity to gain work experience and network with her peers and instructors related to her field of study. In her sophomore year, she joined the Blot team as a graphic designer. “We're a student-run publication here on campus that focuses on campus and community life,” she said about the magazine. As a designer, “you'll be given the photos and the stories that the photographers and writers submit, and then you put it into a page layout spread.”
In her junior year, she would become the creative director—and now, having started in May 2023, she’s the editor-in-chief of Blot Magazine, otherwise known as her self-proclaimed “baby”.
"I've learned a lot about teamwork, leadership and organization,” she said. “Anyone of any major can join Blot. When [we’re hiring], we always look for designers, photographers and writers.”
During her junior year, she worked remotely for the university to design MyUI, a campus dashboard for Vandals. “I designed prototypes of the app for students to test so that we could change the design depending on how they reacted to it,” she explained.
Gia credited the ways she found all her job opportunities to peer and faculty recommendations. She specifically cites Delphine Keim, the Art and Design department chair and her instructor, as a major source of support. “I know it's important to get that experience when you're a student and start to build your network,” she said when asked about her motivations to participate in these job opportunities. “I knew it would benefit me professionally getting that experience as a student so that I kind of have a leg up when I graduate. I have a network that I can go to.”
This last summer before starting her senior year, Gia landed an internship with Boise-based Stoltz Marketing Group, which later would be what she calls the “best experience of my academic career”. Stoltz is a “woman-owned, women-led creative agency” that’s worked closely with the University of Idaho since 2016. Her connections with her peers once again assisted in her career journey, as she explained: “I'm good friends with the student who was an intern that summer before me. He specifically was pushing me to apply and recommending it like crazy.”
The Vandal roots are strong, and they helped Gia get the competitive creative intern position— “the network of Vandals is real!” she said. After the internship, Gia said her professional network doubled. She encourages others to build and utilize the connections with you have simply by being a Vandal.
There, she participated in designing social media posts, print ads and other design projects. She also was involved in meetings with clients, PR and account management. “They really gave me a huge rundown of every piece of the agency, which is amazing and exactly what I was looking for,” she recounted. Gia was even featured in a video produced by Stoltz about her experiences working there.
When asked if seeing the other sides of the advertising world made her consider other types of positions, Gia said, “I considered them, but I still think it reinforced that I want to do the creative side... I really enjoyed designing and being a part of brand development projects.”
It wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows, though—Gia shared how she struggled with imposter syndrome at her Stoltz internship. “Going into it, [I] was really nervous that I wasn't qualified or wouldn't contribute to the environment,” she said.
However, she was able to overcome these feelings with the support of her kind employers. "That was a big thing that I took away from it,” she said. “Yes, you can have the skills and the experience, but just being a good person will get you further… I connected with them personally, but also professionally, because I was working alongside them.”
When asked if Stoltz set the bar for future employers she would have, Gia said, “Absolutely! The bar is so high, and I don't want to work for anyone that’s not like that.”
Even though she still struggles with imposter syndrome from time to time, Gia’s learned to “[have] confidence, even if you don't believe it” the next time she experiences that feeling. “It’s an ongoing process,” she acknowledged. “I think everyone kind of has an ounce of that when they're going into a new job.”
“I was pretty surprised how [the internship] aligned with things I've learned in my journalism classes for my advertising minor, like creative briefs and press releases.” Gia claims that one of the most valuable takeaways with this position came from seeing what she was learning in classes be applied to real life work experiences. "They use the same programs that I'm used to, and they have the same kind of process from [brainstorming] to rough drafts,” she said.
“There was a pretty direct link between what you're learning to actually applying it,” she said. She also learned what to expect in the career path of graphic design marketing, making Stoltz a “really eye-opening” experience. “My internship at Stoltz let me know what agency life would be like… It's just a very fast-paced environment.”
She also learned a great deal about organization, which she later applied to Blot Magazine after returning to school that fall. “I have a notebook that I took out of it and it's kind of my Bible of little things that they did, and I transferred that knowledge to Blot. Knowing I was going to take over my own little business, I have taken their communication and organization into my own leadership position.”
She said, “I feel so lucky to have gotten that internship. Really, anyone can do it if you put in the effort—you don’t have to have a fancy resume or a crazy portfolio. You just have to be invested in it and do your research.”
Furthermore, Gia says to future Vandals, “Ask for help and put in the work… There are so many resources out there to help you succeed, including the Career Services.” She encourages others to perfect their resume, write a cover letter even if it’s not asked for and do a lot of research for positions they’re applying for. “I worked so hard on my portfolio when I submitted it to Stoltz, and they recognized that… So, look at all the details.”
Gia’s captivating career journey here at U of I demonstrates the importance of valuing oneself in the workplace and working to form a strong network of likeminded people. Right now, Gia is most interested in continuing advertising agency work as a career, but she is still open to exploring her options, potentially back in Boise. Hoping to graduate in Spring 2024, we encourage you to keep an eye out for her experimental senior art exhibit in the Spring!
Career Services Marketing Intern