ASU interdisciplinary studies graduate brings love for design, Japanese language and culture, and mindfulness to portfolio

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

You may not know spring 2021 ASU graduate Taylor Kephart by name, but if you’ve engaged with ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts or Sun Devil Fitness over the last several years, you’ve probably been moved by her standout design work — everything from flyers, posters and social media assets to video animations, branded identity pieces and new-student welcome kits. 

During her freshman and sophomore years, Kephart worked with the Sun Devil Fitness Complex as a graphic design assistant and later as a marketing coordinator. Since fall of junior year she’s been a graphic design assistant and integral part of the Creative Services team in her academic home — the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts — where she’s completed the major in interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in design studies and Japanese.

Like many interdisciplinary studies majors, Kephart was drawn to this option because she has wide-ranging interests. 

“For a while I’d been interested in Japanese language and culture, along with different types of design, such as graphic and industrial,” she said. “I was originally an intermedia art major, and later on a Japanese major, but I didn’t want to study just one thing. Fusing my interests and pursuing a degree in interdisciplinary studies seemed like the best option to me once I realized that.”

At ASU, the cornerstone of the interdisciplinary studies degree is a student-organized applied experience — usually an internship or research — that melds their two concentration areas in a meaningful way. Fittingly, Kephart initiated a placement as design and digital marketing intern with the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix.

She said her internship and student worker experiences were equally impactful.

“They enabled me to learn a lot about myself, my work style and my creative process,” she said. “I was also able to meet some great, like-minded people.”

Two of the larger ASU projects in Kephart’s portfolio — the 80-page “Integrate Your Health” guide distributed to students by the Live Well @ ASU initiative and a 120-page inspirational bullet journal created especially for first-year CISA students — incorporate insights she’s learned from William Heywood, associate clinical professor in The Design School and a practicing clinical psychologist.  

“I took two classes with Professor Heywood and would take either of those again in a heartbeat,” Kephart said. “He taught me a lot about mindfulness and how it can have a major impact on your well-being and your creative process. No matter who you are, what your beliefs are, or what your goals in life are, it’s immensely beneficial to slow down every once in a while, calm your mind and listen to your inner voice. Through mindfulness and meditation, you can vastly improve your focus and find answers and inspiration when you had not been able to before."

Kephart, who is graduating with ASU’s prestigious Moeur Award (for completing her bachelor’s degree within four years with a 4.0 GPA) and was also part of a team recognized with a College of Integrative Sciences and Arts 2021 Outstanding Staff Award, said that another unexpected takeaway she’s learned while at ASU is to essentially trust in the journey that is life.

“I really came to notice just how unpredictable life is. In the grand scheme of things, it’s OK to not really know your purpose, or what you want to do with your life. New opportunities can come to you seemingly out of nowhere and you may end up changing your direction entirely,” she reflected. “I learned that it’s OK if things don’t necessarily turn out how I envisioned them. There are always endless opportunities, and life has a way of working itself out.” 

Taylor Kephart shared some additional reflections on her ASU experience.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I chose ASU because it was a chance for me to leave my hometown of Surprise, Arizona, and finally experience new things. I’d lived in the same place with the same people my whole life, and moving away for college was a big step for me. The President’s Award scholarship was also a big deciding factor in choosing ASU — it took away a lot of my worries about the financial side of things

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: It may sound cliché, but try new things! College is a great time to explore your interests, and it’s an even better time to get to know yourself. I’ve tried many new things, and went through many ups and downs during the last four years, and through it all I’ve come out with a much clearer vision of who I am.

Q: What was your favorite place to be at ASU, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite place to be was "A" Mountain. I would hike up in the mornings sometimes when the sun was coming up and just sit at the top and think about life. It would help put the world in perspective, and allowed me to recenter myself when things got overwhelming.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’ve been fortunate enough to find a full-time job as a graphic artist for a local company, so after graduation I will be settling into my new role. I also plan on spending some of my free time rediscovering old hobbies that I haven’t had as much time to cultivate over the past four years. Besides that, I’ll definitely be catching up on some sleep!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: There are so many serious problems in our world today — it’s very hard to make a decision. The first problem that sticks out to me is ocean pollution. At least half of Earth’s oxygen comes from the ocean, and it’s the source of an endless variety of plant and animal life. It is also one of the main forces that helps to regulate the global climate. If we don’t pay special attention to cleaning up and protecting our ocean, the consequences will be significant — even more so than they already are.

Maureen Roen
maureen.roen@asu.edu