When she was shopping for colleges, Jess Morandi found herself at a Wilkes University admissions table by chance while attending a college fair with a friend. Morandi, who was interested in studying graphic design, was sold on the University when she learned about the digital design and media arts major.
Now she’s a junior at Wilkes leading other students as co-chair of “The Vagina Monologues” and working as the design intern and social media ambassador at the Sordoni Art Gallery.
The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler which explores the female existence with the aim of raising awareness about violence against women and girls. Morandi first learned about the play when she was contacted by Wilkes senior Olivia Caraballo to design the posters for the 2019 production. When tasked to design the material, Morandi was met with support from her instructors and peers. Morandi also was able to read a monologue for that performance. “Some are serious, some are funny, but all are empowering,” Morandi says. “You leave the stage feeling like you can take over the world.”
From there, she was asked to return to “The Vagina Monologues” as the co-chair and designer for the 2020 performance. The show will be performed on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. The producion raises money for local organizations supporting and empowering women.
A second major project brought the Wantaugh, N.Y., native’s work to an even larger audience. During the fall 2019 semester, Morandi was asked to design materials and hang the Sordoni Art Gallery exhibition Two Presidents, One Photographer. The exhibit featured the work of legendary White House photographer Pete Souza.
“I touched every aspect of this exhibit. It’s crazy,” Morandi says. She not only created the banners, flyers, invitations and programs for the exhibition as the Sordoni’s design intern, but also took the lead on preparing the exhibit. She hung photos, designed the show lighting, hand cut and designed the labels the provided details next to each photograph, and designed the ornate wall vinyl that greeted visitors when they enter the exhibit. When wearing her social media ambassador hat, Morandi also kept Sordoni Art Gallery followers up to date.
Though a large undertaking for a student, Morandi was backed by a support system, including her mentor Heather Sincavage, assistant professor and director of the Sordoni. “At first people doubted me, but Heather said of course I could do it.” As the show came together, Morandi proved Sincavage was right. “I was confident in my abilities before, but now I’m super confident: This is a huge step for my portfolio and career.”
The work on the Souza show helped her to grow both personally and professionally. Balancing political beliefs, working with various gallery constituents, and acquiring significant portfolio credits, the experience was more than Morandi ever imagined. The proof was seeing her work in the hands of people who attended the photographer’s lecture at Wilkes. “People at the lecture were getting my program signed by Souza. They’ll literally have it forever.”
When Morandi isn’t at the gallery or preparing for “The Vagina Monologues,” you can find her in Breiseth Hall as the vice president of Studio 20, the student-run graphic design firm. As vice president, Morandi assists with project leads and takes on her own clients such as Social Fabric Collective, a nonprofit organization that provides professional photography equipment and training to high school students.
Morandi also plays the cymbals for the Marching Colonels and the Pep Band. Through her band involvement, she’s been named the historian for the band fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi, where she keeps up with social media and marketing efforts.
Reflecting on her Wilkes experience, Morandi offers this advice to incoming students: “College is a big transition that you may not feel ready for. But you are.”
Want to learn more about Morandi? Check out this Dogs of Wilkes post about her emotional support pup, Shadow, here.