Designing for Greatness

Jessica Barry graduated from SAA with a diploma in graphic design in 1997,became its President in 2007, and purchased the school in 2013.

Jessica Barry

As her high school years came to an end and it was time to think about college, Jessica Barry ’13 (Midwest, BA in Management) toured several traditional, large residential universities, but knew she wanted to go somewhere different. After she visited the School of Advertising Art (SAA) in Kettering, OH, she knew she found that place. Although it had a great reputation, it was a small, modest institution housed in an old elementary school alongside a Montessori preschool, ballet studio, and a driving school.

After her graduation from SAA, Barry worked for numerous clients, including Anheuser Busch, Dell, Huffy Bikes, and Iams developing strategic marketing and advertising campaigns.

“I witnessed the impact design makes on the world each day—from smart phones and apps to websites and videos, and I recognized that jobs in the design industry will continue to increase year after year as new products and technologies are invented,” Barry says.

Given this positive experience and perspective, she decided to “help the next generation of designers experience all of these amazing opportunities.” She returned to SAA as a recruiter and designer in 2004. In three short years, Barry became the school’s President and was responsible for the total operation of the college, from developing a strategic plan and working with accrediting commissions to coordinating student inquiries and overseeing staff.

“After I became president, I quickly discovered what I knew—and what I didn’t know—about leading the college,” she says. She knew it was time to return to class herself and grow her skills.

“One of my best decisions was to complete my bachelor’s degree at Antioch University Midwest while I served as president,” Barry says.

Beginning in 2010, Barry worked to complete her BA in Management without missing a beat at SAA. She studied the basics of management science, including accounting and economics, and developed the skills she needed to become an emotionally adept, conscious leader who could build an organization based on strong ideals.

“It was at Antioch that I learned how to be a great leader, and I use what I learned every single day,” Barry says.

2013 was a banner year for Barry. In addition to earning her BA, she also purchased the assets of the college just as it was celebrating its 30th anniversary, and became its sole owner.

Now called The Modern College of Design, it boasts a brand new state of the art campus, which offers programs in more than 10 areas including Motion Design, UI/UX, Video, Advertising, and a degree in Design Leadership. The Modern’s mission is to prepare students for successful careers as leaders in design.

In the last four years, Barry has led The Modern through a 88% enrollment increase as well as a $6 million campus expansion, but what she’s proudest of speaks volumes about her value system and motivation: “It has been a pleasure to have a direct impact on the lives and careers of many artists and graduates.” Barry says.