Meet the 2016 Fellows

The Be Original America’s Summer Fellowship Program begins this week, as 3rd-year students Sarah Ahart of Virginia Tech and Karina Campos of Syracuse University arrive in New York City for the first leg of their 7-week experience in all it takes to make, distribute, and sell authentic design. We spoke with the two Fellows about their backgrounds in design, their expectations for the program, what they’re most excited to learn.

The Fellows


Sarah Ahart is an accomplished, top-ranking student in Virginia Tech’s industrial design program. She currently has a product on the market through Swiss toy company Naef, and recently participated as a finalist in the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge 2016 with her in-home workout station for the elderly. While pursuing her desgree, she also works as lead designer at start-up Park and Diamond Incorporated, where she is creating an ultra-portable bicycle helmet for college commuters.


Karina Campos is an award-winning industrial and interaction design student from Syracuse University. Campos has a background in service design, having worked with the Syracuse community’s Connective Corridor to create public billboards highlighting local people, organizations, and programs that have a positive impact on the city. More recently, she worked with Welch-Allyn to design possible solutions to promote workplace wellbeing for health professionals.

The Questions

What drew you to apply for the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship? 

Sarah: I loved the idea that I would get to be exposed to every aspect of the design, manufacturing, and marketing processes, as well as work with several prominent companies.  I saw it as a great opportunity to gain a variety of experiences in order to help me figure out what career path I want to follow.

Karina: I am enthralled yet lost in world of design; there is just so much to it, my interests go in many directions! When I came to know about the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship, one look at the description and I was hooked. I knew the opportunity to get an up close and personal look at different facets of design was right up my alley.  As a young designer, my thought process is constantly evolving and this immersive program will allow me to explore areas of design I haven’t seen or done before.

What does “original” mean to you? 

Sarah:  To me, original means that something is unlike anything that has come before it.  It has to have some feature or aspect that is novel and sparks interest.

Karina: For me originality is a concept that goes beyond “innovative” and “new”, where it core values lie in the reinterpretation of concepts and forms already in existence; an allusion to pre-established archetypes. Originality finds its voice based on visual observations, human intuitions, needs and struggles and pushes the boundaries of what is in existence but nevertheless has its roots in familiarity.

What are you most looking forward to learning about during the 7-week program?

Sarah Ahart: I am most looking forward to learning about design and manufacturing processes and seeing it first hand.  I am also looking forward to visiting some of the big name companies that I have learned about in school, such as Emeco and Herman Miller.

Karina: I am so excited to uncover the hidden nuances and insights in the design industry as well as observe, learn and connect with design professionals that will challenge my own design thinking and re-define what it means to be a designer.


You’ll be travelling to New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Michigan – which location are you most looking forward to and why?  

Sarah: I am most looking forward to New York.  I have never lived in a big city before, and I am looking forward to experiencing city life!

Karina: Honestly? All of them! This program will really expand my knowledge of design, each state we will be visiting offers different perspectives of design and ways of interpreting the design process. I am looking forward to those mind bending moments!

When you are not studying – orapplying for fellowships- what do you do for fun?

Sarah:  In my free time I enjoying doing ceramics and woodworking.  I also love to be outside and go hiking or boating.  I have always been very sporty and stay occupied with a variety of intramural sports with my school throughout the year. In addition, I am an assistant coach for a youth soccer team.

Karina: Besides my passion for all design, I am an avid cook and a reader. You can always find me on food blogs looking at recipes, experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen or on the couch curled up with a good book.

Follow along with us here on the blog and @beoriginalusa on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on Sarah and Karina’s experiences during the 7-week program. They’ll share exclusive images from site visits to Bernhardt Design, Carnegie, Chilewich, Designtex, Design Within Reach, Emeco, Flavor Paper, Herman Miller, Ligne Roset, and Vitra, and be checking in on about all they’re learning along the way.

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