Just like the graphics industry, McAfee is no stranger to change

Shawn McAfee

Moraine Park Technical College

Graphic Communications Instructor

When Shawn McAfee first entered the graphics industry, desktop publishing software had yet to reach the market. In this pre-digital age, everything was done using layout boards, ink and wax. 

 “Since I started in this field, the work of graphic designers has changed from a job where most work was done manually, to a profession where virtually everything is done in a digital form," McAfee says. “The graphics industry continues to evolve. But that’s the nature of this discipline; you have to enjoy change. I tell my students, ‘If you don’t like things to change, then this is not a good field for you to be in.’”

McAfee earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design from UW-Oshkosh and her Master’s in Studio Art at UW-Milwaukee with an emphasis in Illustration. She went on to coordinate the Instructional Resources Center at UW-Oshkosh for 17 years, where she also taught as an adjunct faculty for 10 years. 

In 2013, McAfee became a Graphics Communications Instructor at Moraine Park, teaching design from the very basic to the more advanced. Her expertise has evolved from the creation of graphic design for print media, to now include designing for Web and social media as well as digital photography. “Because (the industry) is technology-based, it’s changing rapidly,” says McAfee. “There still is a print industry out there and it’s strong, but designers now are being asked to do more online and more video.” 

In her years of teaching, what McAfee still finds most rewarding is seeing the development of her students. “From the time they start to the time they graduate, it’s a process,” she explains. “Students might begin with great ideas, but they can be somewhat limited by their technical skills. When their technical abilities progress to the point where they can readily execute their creative ideas, it’s pretty cool.”

With Graphics Communications at MPTC being a two-year associate degree program, “We only have our students for four semesters,” she says. “That is not a lot of time to train for such a complex industry, but I think we do a good job of preparing our students to begin their career as graphic designers.” 

Among her proudest accomplishments, she considers how all her students have embraced the service-related projects and collaborations they’ve undertaken. “The students have really embraced those projects and have gone above and beyond,” McAfee says. “Those kinds of opportunities make me pretty excited.”

Besides teaching classes, McAfee also supervises MPTC’s graphics club. Outside of scheduled classroom hours, the club takes on projects for non-profits in need of design work. In the past, they’ve provided photography for events such as the Pink Pumpkin Run/Walk, and have supported activities at the Humane Society, local 4H and the Boys and Girls Club. McAfee notes, “Participation in the club is voluntary, but it can provide students with additional portfolio examples and a stronger connection to the community.” 

In her free time, McAfee sticks to non-technology activities. “When I leave the computer, I leave it,” she says. The activities she enjoys most are riding her horse, photography and gardening.