Home Featured 2024 Commencement Bachelor of Fine Arts Valedictorian: Zach Jacobsen, School of Graphic Design

2024 Commencement Bachelor of Fine Arts Valedictorian: Zach Jacobsen, School of Graphic Design

by Art U News

Zach Jacobsen grew up in the small town of Laramie, Wyoming. After attending the University of Wyoming, Jacobsen joined the United States Army in 2003, serving his country for six years and being promoted to sergeant after just two—the quickest time frame possible. This was a testament to Jacobsen’s work ethic and ability to achieve his goals. Zach also competed in and won several Soldier of the Month boards, which resulted in him being invited to the Soldier of the Year competition at Fort Richardson, Alaska—an Army station of over 5,000 soldiers—where he earned second place. During a year-long tour of duty in Baghdad, Iraq, Jacobsen led a convoy security team on over one hundred missions with no military casualties. As a result of his service, Jacobsen was nominated for a Bronze Star and earned the Army Commendation Medal and Combat Action Badge. 

After receiving an honorable discharge from the military, Jacobsen became a police officer, serving the Bay Area for over fifteen years. During his tenure, Jacobsen was promoted to the rank of Corporal and held positions such as Field Training Officer, Force Options Instructor, Special Response Team Operator, SWAT Operator, Tactical EMS Team Leader, and De-escalation Instructor. Jacobsen medically retired after an injury in 2020, which led to his decision to pursue his passion for graphic design at the Academy of Art University. Whether creating websites for a family football pool, compositing unique Photoshop images for friends, or designing logos for police departments, Jacobsen had been searching for ways to build on his creative abilities, and the Academy was the perfect place for that education. 

2024 Bachelor of Fine Arts Valedictorian Zach Jacobsen. Photo courtesy of Zach Jacobsen.

Jacobsen has thrived at the Academy and enjoyed every course he has taken. Having started his final undergraduate semester with a GPA of 3.875, Jacobsen continues to push himself and absorb the incredible knowledge and experience that his instructors encouragingly provide. With his B.F.A. in Graphic Design on the horizon, Jacobsen has registered for the M.A. program in Graphic Design, which he plans to start this fall. Grateful for the opportunities that have shaped his journey and driven by a passion for creativity and excellence, Jacobsen is ecstatic and deeply honored to be nominated for the role of valedictorian. He is eagerly anticipating the chance to share his story and inspire his fellow graduates as they embark on their own paths of discovery and accomplishment.

Jacobsen delivered the following speech to this year’s class of graduating students.

Good morning, fellow graduates, distinguished faculty, beloved family, and cherished friends. It is with profound honor that I stand before you today, marking the commencement of a new chapter in our lives—a day that every one of us should be incredibly proud of. 

As we gather here, reflecting on our collective journey at the Academy of Art University, it’s evident that each of us embarked on this path from diverse starting points. For some, it was a life-changing decision that took them across the world, while for others, like myself, it followed years of dedicated service to this country and our communities. Yet, what unites us is this remarkable adventure that we’ve traversed over the past several years. Through triumphs and tribulations alike, we’ve risen to every challenge, emerging victorious with our heads held high. 

When I began my senior portfolio course this semester, my classmates and I were tasked with encapsulating our experiences into a theme. As I thought about this for several weeks, I found myself drawn to the notion of “groundedness,” a quality that has anchored me throughout my journey—both at the  Academy and in life beyond. Allow me to share with you how I defined this sense of being “grounded” in my portfolio: 

“Grounded” isn’t just about where your feet stand. It’s a feeling of stability amidst life’s many twists and turns. It’s about finding purpose and forging a path forward, even after facing challenges. It’s the ability to take risks, chase dreams, and hold your head high with confidence because of the foundation you’ve established. Ultimately, “Grounded” represents the journey of self-discovery, growth, and reinvention—a journey that can begin at any stage of life. This sense of being grounded allows us to grow in unexpected ways, thriving not just despite the challenges but often because of them. 

I share these reflections because I believe that within each of us lies the capacity to resonate with this sense of groundedness. And with it, we can do great things; every challenge becomes an opportunity,  and every setback a chance to innovate. As artists, designers, and creatives, we have the power to provoke thought, evoke emotion, and illuminate the human experience in a myriad of ways. Our art has the ability to transcend boundaries and connect us all in a shared expression of humanity. The creative talents and abilities that we leave here today with should remind you of the resilience, adaptability, and dedication that lie within each of us. 

So, as you step forth with your hard-earned diploma in hand, remember that it symbolizes more than academic achievement. It embodies the tenacity and unwavering determination that now courses through you—qualities that will drive you toward greatness as you embark on your next chapter in life. 

Congratulations, Class of 2024. Although this journey may have reached its culmination today, our artistic adventures have only just begun. Let us start this next chapter with confidence, passion, and an unwavering commitment to making our mark on the world.  

Thank you.

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