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Class of 2018 Valedictorian: Keri Yourick

Since 2005, Academy of Art University M.F.A. valedictorian Keri Yourick’s thirst for knowledge and self-discovery have led her to many different places. She’s studied in Florida, Colorado, Italy and California. Along the way, she’s accumulated an impressive collection of degrees. They include a B.A. in Italian from The Ohio State University in Florida, a school she attended on a lacrosse scholarship; a B.A. in fashion design from the Art Institute of Colorado; and her latest, an M.F.A. in fashion product development from the Academy. Always driven to do her best, Yourick graduated with honors from each of her alma maters.

“It’s never been an option for me to not excel,” said Yourick. “It’s part of my personality. I’m not content if I’m not pushing myself to the limit. And I have to love what I’m doing. I can’t commit to something I can’t enjoy, so I had to find majors I was passionate about.”

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2018 M.F.A. Valedictorian Keri Yourick. Photo by Bob Toy.

In spite of her impressive academic accomplishments, Yourick gets that outsiders might be tempted to view all those years she spent in school as signs of indecisiveness or a way to postpone starting her career and becoming a bona fide adult. She admitted to changing her major seven times while she was at The Ohio State University. And in between earning degrees, she took a detour to Rome to improve her Italian and learn more about craftsmanship in fashion design at Italian Alta Moda.

“If you asked my parents today whether or not they doubted I would be standing here with an M.F.A., they would tell you they never had a doubt in their mind,” she said from the podium at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. “But they might also tell you there was no telling where I might end up.”

While others may have worried where her long, meandering journey was taking her, Yourick didn’t. She trusted her intuition and always believed she was heading in the right direction.

“’Not all who wander are lost,’” she remarked, quoting author J.R.R. Tolkien. “Part of the reason I stayed in school so long is that I wanted to get the same level of knowledge that you can get while working in the fashion industry, but I was also still hungry for academic information. I wanted to know everything about the industry and have a holistic view of it, not just one skill set.”

After careful research, Yourick selected the Academy’s School of Fashion as the final—at least for now—stop in her formal education odyssey. Determined to carve out her own niche in the industry, she picked the Academy partly because it was located in San Francisco rather than one of the fashion capitals of the world.

“I wanted to find a school with a great reputation but that was also in a place I would actually be excited to start my career in,” explained Yourick. “San Francisco and the Academy’s strong fashion program met both of those requirements.”

Three years in the program left her with a lot more to say and contribute—and still more to learn. She also achieved her goal of launching her career in San Francisco when she got hired at The North Face where she’s a member of the materials team.

“The North Face has made a commitment to help me grow professionally, and in exchange, I get to offer my creative voice every day,” said Yourick near the end of her commencement speech. “I’m working for a company whose business values align with my personal values. Today, I’m confident in myself as a designer because of those messy years of wandering, self -exploration and the hard work accomplished here at Academy of Art University.”