August 06, 2014

ASU student wins graduate scholarship to study media design in Canada

Posted: August 06, 2014
ASU student Anna Witcraft at graduation
Anna Witcraft, who graduated from ASU's Graphic Information Technology program in May, won a prestigious scholarship that will allow her to attend graduate school in Canada.
Photo by: Jessica Hochreiter

Anna Witcraft, who graduated in May from Arizona State University's Graphic Information Technology program, has won a prestigious scholarship to pursue a master's degree in Canada.

The award of $26,500 a year for two years is funded through Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, a research and innovation system that encourages interaction of government, industry and academia to develop solutions to global challenges. It will allow Witcraft to pursue a master of science degree in computational media design at the University of Calgary.

The Graphic Information Technology program is housed in the Polytechnic School, one of ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Laurie Ralston, a lecturer in the program who wrote a recommendation letter for Witcraft, said Witcraft understands the principals of design while also excelling in technical computing skills.

“She is an intelligent, thoughtful and creative individual,” Ralston wrote. “She has a unique mixture of intellect, technical knowledge and artistic ability that have been apparent in every one of my classes.”

Witcraft decided on grad school during winter break and started looking at programs on the West Coast. Eventually, she found the Calgary program, a thesis program that married art and computer science. But she had only 15 days to apply for the scholarship.

She received an e-mail telling her of the award earlier than she expected, and feared it was a rejection.

“When I called my parents to tell them, my Dad picked up,” she said. “I told them to both get on the phone. They asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ I told them I got the scholarship and they screamed so loudly that I went deaf in one ear.”

Witcraft said she is the first in her immediate family to go to grad school, and that her parents are a bit skeptical, but she is convinced the additional credentials will help her in her career. Her mother is an actuary and her father was a pilot for DHL Express.

Witcraft was also happy about the Canadian program because her boyfriend, Kelen Rosine, also a student at the Polytechnic School, is from Calgary, and she can live with his parents while attending school.

Witcraft and Rosine met at a Halloween party when Witcraft, who is a hockey fan like her father, recognized the Calgary Flames jersey Rosine was wearing. Rosine will graduate next May with a degree in electrical engineering.

Witcraft is still refining her thesis idea, but her goal is to study how to improve communication between families and loved ones in assisted living. She will work with Anthony Tang, an assistant professor in Calgary’s computer science department.

Witcraft felt compelled to help make a change after visiting Rosine’s grandmother in assisted living and doing some research on the increasing numbers of dementia patients. Alzheimer's Disease International predicts the number of cases will triple from more than 44 million today to 135 million by 2050.

“I was inspired to try to help connect families with loved ones after visiting the assisted living facility and seeing how difficult it is for people to stay in contact,” Witcraft said. “I want to make a software system to make it easier.”

Witcraft started college at the University of North Dakota, majoring in accounting, but she missed the creativity of the artwork she had done in high school. She thought graphic design would be a better fit, and started looking at programs at UND, Boston and Arizona State University. She thought ASU would be too big. But when she visited the Polytechnic campus, she loved it. She lived on campus and worked in the advising office.

“I started in gaming, but after one semester, I switched to digital publishing,” Witcraft said.

She did an internship with Softpoint LLC, working on applications for the hospitality industry that allow hotels, restaurants and retail outlets to talk to each other. She also worked with a group of students to create a logo for their on-campus car-detailing business.

She said she enjoyed her business management classes, and thinks that one day, after gaining corporate experience, she might create her own startup.

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Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering