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Arts and Sciences | AlumniJuly 06, 2022

Manas Perseveres Through Pandemic, Connects With Her Heritage

Written By: Samantha Contreras

During the first wave of pandemic-induced school shutdowns in the spring of 2020, Karolyn Manas, a senior graphic design major at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, grappled with the fear of the unknown – what would this mean for her graduation timeline?

“Being one of the first graduates to walk after the pandemic, it hit me differently because I almost gave up,” said Manas, a graphic design major with a media communication minor. “I still remember the feeling of walking across the stage for the first time after the pandemic. It was one of the best moments of my life.”

Manas began taking classes through the Western Arkansas Technical Center in the Fall of 2014. While at UAFS, she joined the AIGA Student Group for Design, interned as a Graphic Designer for the Marketing and Communications department, and studied abroad in South Korea for a semester.

“The hardest person you are going to face is yourself,” said Manas. “But my time at UAFS inspired me to learn more about design, from going overseas to working in an office.”

Manas, who is half Laotian and Filipino, spent much of her early life in Japan on the outskirts of Yokosuka and Sasebo, embraced her Asian descent and the influence of her culture as she developed her style as an artist.

“I had a professor of Asian descent who said to be proud of your heritage, be a very strong woman because, in the design world, it is hard for us, especially being Asian. Keep working hard to the fullest and be one of the top designers in the state,” Manas said she would never forget those words, especially as she advances in the professional world.

Though learning to create from afar was difficult, Manas preservered through the changing dynamics of pandemic education, managing an internship, maintaining her grades, and finding a path toward her career.

“It was hard keeping myself motivated when you’re so used to in-person classes. My normal three-hour classes were hands-on, but we were on our own and had to use the web to learn how to do something,” said Manas.

A few months after that memorable graduation day, Manas was recruited by icreatives, an online company that pairs artists and designers with contract work at major corporations. Her current icreatives contract is working as a packaging designer for Walmart corporation.