Mural adds finishing touch to reimagined Office of Student Involvement
Two and a half years ago, a third-floor office inside the Millennium Student Center got a much-needed makeover, and it’s been a different kind of place ever since.
A handful of University of Missouri–St. Louis students lounge on beanbags in one corner on a recent afternoon as others chat with a staff member at a picnic-type table nearby. A few fellow Tritons sit alone, concentrating on coursework and making the most of the various furnishings, nooks and crannies around the room.
It’s evolved into just the sort of welcoming, relaxed environment that the Office of Student Involvement team had hoped to create – and now it’s even more inviting when people stop by. One whole wall within the space has been filled with an eye-catching mural positively bursting with UMSL fun.
“When students first walk in, they’re like, ‘Whoa,’” says Mike Diliberto, OSI’s media producer and the primary person behind the project. “It’s really detailed. The idea was that every time you look at it you’re going to find something new, which is why we tried to put as much as we could in there.”
Diliberto and Director of Student Involvement Jessica Long-Pease first hit on the idea of a mural in January. A few months later, Diliberto and his then-student employee Carley Fite, now a graduate of UMSL’s graphic design program, got to work brainstorming specific possibilities for the giant canvas.
“We came up with a variety of ideas, and some of them were just big splashes of red and yellow, things like that, and then Carley had an idea of doing more of a big scene of things happening,” Diliberto says. “We broke it down into a bunch of little scenes and just things that represent the UMSL experience.”
Difficult to describe in a nutshell, the mural includes everything from illustrations of campus traditions such as Mirthweek, to an over-caffeinated-looking face on a coffee mug, to a depiction of a camping trip complete with a cozy fire and starry sky.
“The mural Mike and Carley designed was really the missing piece in our renovation,” says Long-Pease. “It captures so many facets of involvement on campus, and it adds another layer of fun and whimsy to the space. We truly want to connect with our students and invite them to utilize this space as they need, and I think the mural helps emphasize the warmth and welcoming nature of our office and the staff that work here.”
Diliberto brought the project to fruition in the early part of the summer – a time of year when things are a little less hectic for a bit – so that it was all in place for new and returning students to enjoy by the time orientation sessions and the fall semester rolled around.
As extensive as the mural is, it’s just one of more than 650 design projects that Diliberto and his four student employees have completed over the past year.
“About 50 student organizations use our services on a consistent basis,” Diliberto explains. “We do it for free for all of them – and you add on all of the events that each of them do, and it ends up being a lot.”
Among other wide-ranging projects, they create all of the big banners that decorate the rotunda in the middle of the MSC, drawing the attention of passersby on the building’s multiple floors and along the escalator.
“As far as I can tell, that is how most students get their info as far as what events are going on,” says Diliberto, who started working at UMSL just over three years ago.
Juggling so many projects takes some doing, he adds, but he loves the nature of the job – including working with the graphic design students who help him turn it all around.
“Because we work on so many events, it’s not just one campaign or style,” Diliberto adds. “We’re doing work for New Student Programs, University Program Board, Associated Black Collegians – all the different student groups and the different events that they do. So we get to work in a lot of different styles and do different sorts of work.”
On top of leading the efforts to create murals, brochures, videos, the Weeks of Welcome booklet and more, Diliberto cranks out the weekly cartoon “On the Quad” for the Current, UMSL’s independent student newspaper.
“That’s one of my favorite things,” he admits. “When I was in school I did a comic strip for the student newspaper, and I really liked doing it. After I left, I kept doing it on my own, and then when I started here at UMSL it seemed like a great way to help get the word out about campus stuff – plus get paid to draw cartoons. And some of the cartoons are based on events we have coming up.”
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