Group photo of students and alumni who painted the mural. Top row from left to right: Lyndsy Fay, Makaela Riggs, Trinity Duffy, Devon Friederichs, Charlie Bledsoe and Anna Segner. Bottom row from left to right: Hannah Hovey, Rowan Larson and Ace Kyer.

AMES, Iowa – The scent of fresh paint fills the second-floor hallway of Iowa State University’s Ross Hall as an interdisciplinary team of eight College of Design students and recent graduates work to finish a mural they designed for the Department of English. Anna Segner, assistant teaching professor of art and visual culture, has spent the last eight weeks leading a mural design studio to revamp the dining space used by faculty and staff.

Images of scrolls, books, and phrases in various languages, including American Sign Language and braille, now grace the lunchroom walls. Staying true to the Iowa State brand, swirls of cardinal and gold complement these illustrations. The project is the brainchild of Candy Miller, the English department’s administrative assistant.

“We told the students we wanted the mural to be relevant for the department,” said Miller. “They came up with the design, presented it to us and we were blown away. It’s been exciting to watch these students bring this mural to life.”

Working as a team

Anna Segner painting around braille cells installed for their mural.

Miller first contacted Sarah Kyle, chair and professor of art and visual culture, seeking students who would like to paint their lunchroom over the summer. Kyle tapped Segner, who has painted six murals of her own, to create a summer course opportunity for students.

The main goal of the project was to teach students how to design a mural, what materials they will need, how to plan and execute their design and to document the process, Segner said. The experience also taught her students the importance of working as a team.

“Everyone took on different roles with this project,” Segner said. “There were times some students were leading our efforts and there were times those same students were learning from others. Teamwork was really what made this project successful and everyone worked well together.”

The class includes May 2024 graduates and current students majoring in graphic design, integrated studio arts and scientific illustration and visualization (formerly biological and pre-medical illustration).

Developing new skills

Trinity Duffy underpainting the mural.

Graphic design junior Trinity Duffy was unsure how her skills would translate into the project, but she was pleasantly surprised to realize that murals and graphic design go hand in hand.

“During our ideation phase, I was able to let my skills shine and our group ended up going with a design that I helped create,” said Duffy, from Des Moines. “And now I get to say a mural I came up with is a permanent fixture at Ross Hall. That’s pretty awesome.”

The project has introduced some students to a career path they were unfamiliar with. Ace Kyer, a junior in integrated studio arts from Altoona, hopes she’ll have more opportunities to create large-scale pieces.

“I’ve always found murals interesting but I never knew where to start in terms of helping create one,” Kyer said. “Being a part of this project has given me something to add to my portfolio and it’s going to give me the credentials to make another in the future.”


Anna Segner, Assistant Teaching Professor of Art and Visual Culture,
Trinity Duffy, Junior Graphic Design Student,
Ace Kyer, Junior Integrated Studio Arts Student,
Lauren Johnson, College of Design Communications Specialist,