McHugh is originally from Majuro, Marshall Islands, located between Hawaii and Australia, where opportunities like the Fellowship don’t exist. Job opportunities on the islands are limited compared to larger countries, and the education system faces various challenges, like limited resources to qualified teachers and modern facilities.
“Limited job opportunities are hard to overcome and often lead many people to a life of poverty. A lot of the islanders move to the U.S. for a better life and access to more opportunities of employment and education, which is what my biological grandpa did,” McHugh said.
“I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah when I was a year old and lived with my grandpa. I was adopted when I was 3 years old by my family in Minnesota, who have supported me not only with an education, but also a loving home,” she said.
When McHugh graduated high school, her grandpa wished for her to gain a college education, graduate and get a good paying job. Those wishes motivated her to become the first person in her biological family to finish high school and college.
“It was an incredible feeling to achieve those milestones, and I was lucky enough to have my grandpa there for both my high school and college graduations,” she said.
“As a Pacific Islander, being part of the Fellowship program shows that no matter where you come from, you can achieve great things. The opportunity to collaborate with individuals from diverse backgrounds is something I cherish deeply, and I consider myself incredibly grateful for this experience,” she added.
McHugh would love to begin her career as a graphic designer at Knock Inc. or at another advertising agency or big corporation, like Target. And after more work experience and networking, she plans to grow her own business one day, based on a project she completed in the GDIM program.
“I created an adoption program for families and kids who are adopted, like me,” she said. “I named this program Adopt Yourself, which focuses on emotional and social wellness. I had a fun time developing and branding the program, and I hope to make this dream program become a reality someday.”
UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design, with six Bachelor of Fine Arts, two Bachelor of Science programs and a Master of Fine Arts in design, is the largest in the Upper Midwest with more than 1,200 students. It has been named one of the best graphic design schools in the country.