Graphic communications major finds bliss at Big Dot of Happiness

Along with summer co-op, Mia Bartel garners $10,700 in scholarships
UW-Stout student Mia Bartel at her summer co-op helped print many of the items available at the Big Dot of Happiness in Menomonie, a company that creates and ships signature party and special events supplies./UW-Stout photos Pam Powers
August 20, 2018

University of Wisconsin-Stout graphic communications junior Mia Bartel loves both the creative and the technological side of her major.

“I couldn’t see myself with any other major,” said Bartel, of Sheboygan Falls. “It fits my personality and brain so well. There is a spit of creative and logical with the technology use.”

This summer, Bartel has been part of UW-Stout’s Career Services Cooperative Education Program at the Big Dot of Happiness in Menomonie. She started the paid internship in early June and will continue until the end of August. The co-op program integrates career-related work experience with academic coursework.

In early September, Bartel will stay on as a part-time employee at Big Dot, which creates and ships signature party and special event supplies. Bartel prepares print layouts, problem-solves printer issues and prints products for customers.

“I just love the people in the print shop,” Bartel said. “They’ve all been really helpful and there is such energy. I’ve just learned a lot about the printers we work with. I love seeing the final products. There is always more to learn with the printer. It’s technology. You can never know enough.”

Bartel lovs seeing the final products she prints like these llama-themed party decorations.The Big Dot of Happiness was started in 1999 by co-owners Sherri Yukel and her husband, Scott, in their basement. Sherri designed a web page to help sell the custom character towels she made. In 2008 the company moved to a 20,000-square-foot site in the Stout Technology Park. The building was designed with the atmosphere of a party in mind and planning life’s special occasions.

Each room has a unique, humorous name, which is part of the company’s branding designed to make it stand out from other manufacturers. The printing room goes by the name Superheroes.

Bartel likes how involved the Yukels are in the company and that they treat the employees like family. The staff took a trip this summer to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., to see horse racing.

“Sherri is just so positive,” Bartel said. “It’s really inspiring to see where she started and where she is now and how the company has grown. I’m excited to see where it goes in the future.”

Bartel will start working part-time at Big Dot of Happiness this fall.

Along with her co-op this summer, Bartel has been awarded $10,700 in scholarships for the 2018-2019 academic year. They include:

  • The Foundation of Flexographic Technical Association, which provides financial aid to students interested in flexography, a form of printing that uses a flexible relief plate, as well as graphic communication, $3,000
  • Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation, a not-for profit, industry-directed organization that dispenses undergraduate college scholarships and graduate fellowship assistance to those interested in graphic communication careers, $2,700
  • Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute, which provides scholarships based on academic achievement, a demonstrated interest in the tag, label and package printing industry, $5,000. The scholarship includes a trip to the institute’s national convention in Florida in October.

“The scholarships mean so much to me,” Bartel said. “I am so thankful to these foundations. They are so helpful and beneficial to my education. I can focus more time on school. The opportunity these scholarships have given me is unreal. Anyone in college knows the difficulty of taking out loans and being in debt to pay for school.”

Shaun Dudek, UW-Stout assistant professor in the communication technologies department, said Bartel is an active member of the graphic communications program not only in the classroom but with industry networking and extracurricular activities. “She has shown dedication to the major, as well as the university, and is not shy about forging her own career pathway to success,” Dudek said. “Mia is well-deserved of all the scholarships she has earned."

The program requires a co-op experience. “The program faculty believe the co-op experiences give students the greatest opportunity for future career success. Faculty believe that having local industry partnerships for co-op or employment brings value and relevance to the UW-Stout graphic communications major. Additionally, these local industry partnerships assist in the economic development of the region as students do not have to leave the area to find employment, (which is) truly a win-win for UW-Stout, the students and local businesses.”

In the spring, Bartel was a participant in the national Phoenix Challenge. During the flexographic competition, Bartel and four UW-Stout team members designed a 32-ounce jar shrink sleeve label and an eight-ounce jar pressure sensitive label for specialty jams. The team won the best research category. Other graphic communications students on the team were juniors Abbegail Lee, of Eau Claire; Bridget Johnson, of Mukwonago; Haley Meszaros, of McHenry, Ill.; and Hailey Vosen, of Wabasha, Minn.



Bartel loves seeing the final products she prints like these llama-themed party decorations.

Bartel, a graphic communications major, enjoys the creative and technological side of her major.