Academic Excellence Award Student News

Returning to her creative side with a new career

Xinh Beardmore receives Academic Excellence Award for School of Design

After establishing a successful career in financial services, culminating as Associate Director of Finance in a large healthcare organization, Xinh Beardmore wasn’t satisfied. It was important work, but to her, balance sheets and fiscal projections didn’t feel like a tangible outcome. She had a growing sense that she wanted to make things, and needed a career that allowed her to express herself.

“I wanted to get back to my creative roots and let the artistic side of me come out,” she said.

Those roots went back to her early childhood in the south of Vietnam, where her family lived in a poor rural rice village.

“My mom says, as a young child, I was gifted with my hands and had an artistic eye.” Her mother reminded her that toys were a luxury in that time and place, but she was always content to draw or use clay dirt to mold miniatures of things that she wanted to play with, like pots and pans for her own kitchenette.

When she was seven years old, her family immigrated to the United States and settled in St. Cloud. Her creative passions continued to flourish in grade school. “I gravitated toward drawing, painting, and ceramics,” Beardmore said. By the time she graduated from St. Cloud Apollo High School, she had earned an art scholarship to the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

However, she did not pursue an art degree there.

“For many reasons beyond my true interests, despite the art scholarship that allowed me to attend the College of St. Benedict, I graduated with a degree in accounting,” she said. “I landed a very stable career in finance for 10 years.”

It wasn’t enough.

“My yearning to be creative never has subsided,” she said, which is why she began to search for a more hands-on, creatively fulfilling career. On the advice of a career counselor, she checked out the Graphic Design & Production program at Dunwoody College of Technology and attended an Open House shortly before the 2022 fall semester began.

She was impressed right away.

“The wide breadth of topics this short, two-year program packed in sold me,” she said. “So, when I toured Dunwoody and saw their mission statement ‘Born to Do’, it felt instantly like home.” A personal conversation with Pete Rivard, adjunct professor, further convinced her that this program would help her transition to a new career.

With help from Admissions staff to quickly process her enrollment, she was a student just two weeks later.

Beardmore credits the wide range of technology and tools available to students—from the latest Adobe software, DSLR cameras, CAD table, and laser cutters in the Fabrication Lab—for bringing her creativity to life. Structural Packaging—which focuses on design and production skills for retail packaging—was her favorite part of the program, in part because it involved math.

“This class was a good blend of both left-brain and right-brain thinking, which was nice for me, coming from a finance background,” she said. “I love most that it allows you to bring your work into physical form. After a career crunching numbers, it is thrilling to have your work tangibly exist in the real world.”

Beardmore’s drive, skills, and leadership, in and out of the classroom, have stood out.

In her first year, she held internships at Imagine Group and CBX. In these positions, she experienced real-world production in press operations, estimating, CAD, prepress, and design. In her second year, she chose to devote herself to classwork, and took on leadership of G.R.A.S.S (Graphic Design Student Society). As President, she led successful fundraising efforts to support the organization, promoted its visibility, and mentored her fellow board members.

Beardmore was named a 2024 Academic Excellence Award winner for the School of Design. Pam Glander, Assistant Professor in Graphic Design & Production, nominated Beardmore for the award.

“Xinh actively assists peers across different cohorts and departments,” Glander noted in her nomination.  “As a non-traditional student forging a new career path, she wholeheartedly embraces her leadership role, generously sharing her knowledge and displaying a commitment to continuous learning and mastery beyond the confines of the classroom.”

“It’s an honor to receive this award,” Beardmore said. “An external validation (beyond my friends and family) of my belief that I am creative, and that I do belong on this career path.”

In the final weeks before graduation, Beardmore is putting the final touches on her portfolio and exploring career opportunities. She is especially interested in 3D/ virtual design, and design for User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). She has had employment offers, but is carefully reviewing her options.

“I have never been in a position where I don’t know what my next job is, and the planner in me is terrified, but also thrilled at the possibilities,” she said. “Dunwoody marks the turn of a chapter in my life that I never expected to get to. It is the start of something new and brave.”