She loves the outdoors. She loves animals. So it was natural that Wright State University sophomore Alexis Schankin would choose to major in biological sciences, right?
Schankin’s love of art and her artistic skills won out. So not long after arriving at the university, the biology major became an art major.
Getting the credit for the switch was her campus job in the Office of Institutional Research, which collects, analyzes and distributes statistical information on students, programs and facilities.
On her job application, Schankin mentioned that she was an artist. She suddenly found herself being asked to design infographics, posters and other materials to visually illustrate numbers and data.
After she designed the Student Success Book and an infographic for the Bolinga Black Cultural Resources Center, the floodgates opened. Schankin would go on to design other infographics, including one that colorfully illuminated student demographic percentages such as types of degrees and number of minorities and military veterans.
“It really pushed me in the direction of art,” she said. “I take all the data I need and lay it out. I come up with a theme, what kinds of fonts and colors I want to use and what kind of feeling I want to create in looking at the graphs. And I’ve got to make it readable.”
Craig This, interim director of the office, says Schankin is extremely gifted at taking a complex set of data and translating it into pictures and images that can be easily understood at a single glance.
“Her ability to switch from data to graphics and back really informs her work both ways, and I think allows her to develop insights that we might not otherwise see,” said This.
Schankin grew up in Beavercreek and spent much of her childhood enjoying the outdoors, where she would catch bugs and otherwise soak up nature.
Her father is retired from the Air Force, where he worked as an engineer. Her mother works at Wright State as a budget planning resource analyst. Both are Wright State alums.
Her grandmother and father, who drew diagrams of jet engines when he was in the Air Force, are both artistic, and Schankin began drawing when she was a little girl.
“My second grade teacher really liked my art. She told me I was really talented. I think she still has some of my art to this day,” Schankin said. “And in high school, I did a lot of art.”
In the fall, Schankin, a 2015 ArtsGala scholar, will take art history as well as studio classes on painting, sculpture, photography and printmaking.
“If I had to pick my favorite, I really do enjoy painting a lot more than I would have expected,” she said. “I like the way everything flows in painting. The colors come together well.”
Schankin said mastering painting and other art forms takes a lot of practice and constant repetition.
“A couple of my professors have helped me see things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, like alterations of color and washing out colors with too much white,” she said. “Other times it’s looking up how to blend color or more effectively grasp the contours of a person.”
Assistant art professor Jeremy Long said Schankin has a wonderful attitude and asks thoughtful questions during class.
“Alexis is a student who makes my job easy because I can point to her work as a great example of what students should be doing,” Long said.
Schankin wants to be a professional graphic designer.
“I think I would like to design packaging for products, design websites, give a company a certain feel they want to achieve,” she said.
And what does Schankin do for fun?
“I draw,” she said. “It’s very relaxing.”