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Wizards of the Coast hires MIAD senior

Paolo Vacala

Paolo Vacala

For Paolo Vacala ’24 (Communication Design), it took stepping back and shifting his attitude to land a post-graduation job with Wizards of the Coast. The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) senior had previously worked with the Lubar Innovation Center to develop a portfolio that resulted in two summer internships with the roleplaying game company.

“When I was younger, I felt a desperation for opportunity and achievement,” explains Vacala. In spite of being rejected for a full-time position at Wizards of the Coast after two summers interning at the company, Vacala experienced an attitude shift away from seeking achievement and towards appreciating what he had already gained. “What you can receive at MIAD goes beyond plain career and professional development,” he says. “Acceptance into a community of thoughtful and genuine people to learn and grow with goes beyond any job or title. I think having that is success.”

“After stepping back a bit, I felt at ease,” Vacala continues. “I committed myself to the amazingness I already have: My classwork, my peers and professors. Months later, I received an unexpected official full-time offer from Wizards of the Coast, and accepted. This achievement felt better than any award, offer or recognition I’ve ever received.” Following graduation, Vacala will work on Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons team as a graphic designer.

Drew Maxwell, executive director of the Lubar Innovation Center, remembers coaching Vacala on building a portfolio that could capture the attention of Wizards of the Coast for an internship. “Assignments in class are portfolio builders, but a really great portfolio piece can’t be done in two weeks like a school assignment,” explains Maxwell. “The Innovation Center gives space for a much longer process that is much more focused as far as portfolio building … We’ll come up with a mock project for students to help build up their portfolio. It gives them the space to really build it up.”

In addition to connecting students with outside companies to work on paid collaborative projects, the Lubar Innovation Center hosts professional workshops and offers assistance with career development and preparation. Maxwell encourages all students, including those just starting out in their first year, to stop in. “We don’t grade, we’re just in your corner going, ‘all right, do it!’” he says.

Now in his senior year, Vacala is working hard on his senior capstone project: a video game addressing over-escapism titled Daybreak. The game plays along a timeline rather than a loop, allowing gamers to not have to worry about playing too long. “The crucial difference is that Daybreak always satisfyingly concludes, already blocking out the time for you every day to take a refreshing and controlled break,” says Vacala.

“This has been a great challenge to me while also being quite fulfilling and engaging,” Vacala continues. “I’m excited to see this project through and present my efforts on thesis night!” Daybreak, along with the capstone projects of over 200 other seniors, will be on view at MIAD’s Senior Exhibition from April 19 – May 11, 2024.

As a Communication Design student, Vacala appreciates the empathy-focused coursework at MIAD within the major. “In the Communication Design department, our classes arm us with the globally applicable and magical success-creating skill of simply understanding another human being,” he says. “We practice the process of conceptualizing a product based on the needs of a demographic.”

Vacala finishes, “My Communication Design education feels like it was more than just pushing pixels. I feel confident in my abilities and my value, in whatever I choose to pursue.”

Learn more about MIAD’s Communication Design program, explore the Lubar Innovation Center and visit the MIAD Senior Exhibition!

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