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When Mary Katherine Fitzpatrick decided to return to college to finish her degree after a long hiatus, she knew she had a passion for art but also wanted to combine her appreciation for visual communication with the growing landscape of social media. “Originally I was seeking a degree in art education but wanted to switch my area of study to something in the field of computing and technology. Every organization around the world is now about managing and securing data. I wanted to be a direct part of that field,” Fitzpatrick said.
Her degree in Media Arts and Science (MAS) with a specialization in digital storytelling from the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI (SoIC) was a perfect fit and led her to an internship experience with Ascent121 last fall. Fitzpatrick met the organization’s volunteer coordinator at Indiana Black Expo and after learning about their work, she knew she wanted to do anything she could to support their mission.
“Art has a powerful ability to help with healing. It’s a natural spring of joy, and I want to help children develop their creative talents as a coping skill.”
Ascent121 offers clinical recovery services for central Indiana teens—providing interventions and a continuum of care for survivors of sexual exploitation—and hosts awareness and professional development training for community members.
Fitzpatrick recognized there were common misconceptions about trafficking and wanted to make sure people understood the truth. “I want to make sure that in this age of information that we are getting accurate stories so that we may efficiently and effectively solve social issues,” she said.
Her experience at Ascent121 and her volunteer work with the School of Informatics and Computing’s iDEW program also solidified her interest in working with children in Indiana. “Art therapy is one of the tools used at Ascent121, and I remember how excited the students in the iDEW program were when we had days we could draw and be creative. Art has a powerful ability to help with healing. It’s a natural spring of joy, and I want to help children develop their creative talents as a coping skill,” Fitzpatrick said.
The majority of Fitzpatrick’s time was spent representing Ascent121 during information events like the School of Informatics and Computing’s Career Fair, conferences, and training events. She also gathered raw footage of outreach events, created templates, did data entry, designed the organization’s t-shirt, and whatever else was needed.
Fitzpatrick credits fellow students and many others for their support and advice along the way, including MAS faculty John King, Rodney Smith, Mathew Powers, Joseph Defazio, Zeb Wood, and Jacob Dobson; SoIC staff Vicki Daugherty and Pat Rhodes; and Herron School of Art and Design faculty Anila Quayyam Agha. Rhodes, career service specialist at the School of Informatics and Computing, said, “After meeting with Mary, I quickly realized this internship was the opportunity for her to showcase her many talents. Mary’s passion and skillset along with the mission of Ascent121 was the perfect match to climax her educational experience! I am very proud of Mary and envision greater things to come from her in the immediate future.”
Fitzpatrick has her own advice for others looking for unique and meaningful ways to apply their media arts and science skills. “I would encourage all students to attend career fairs, make an appointment with career services, and visit indianaintern.net. Finding the right internship will happen,” she said.