Meet Art Professor Asma Nazim-Starnes '05

Dec 5, 2016

by Samantha Surrency '18

Originally from Kandy, Sri Lanka, alumna Asma Nazim-Starnes ‘05 found her home as an art major at Florida Southern. Focusing on graphic design, bookmaking, painting, and multimedia projects, she is now a professor at Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. We got the opportunity to talk with her about her life since graduation.

Why did you choose to attend FSC?

I was in Sri Lanka and had never traveled farther than India in all of my life when I received a brochure from FSC. I fell in love with the way the campus looked, since the bright greenery and palm trees reminded me so much of my own tropical island. I was attracted to the small campus, class sizes, and the graphic design program. The Frank Lloyd Wright architecture was also very impressive.

What was your experience as an art major?

I received a well-rounded degree in the graphic arts, and the classes in web design I took as a senior helped me land an excellent job at Disney’s Yellow Shoes Group. I had excellent professors, some of whom were actually practicing in the field at the time as well. We had fantastic hardware, software, and ample studio time. I loved painting so much that I took more than the required classes, and I did the same with art history. My love for art history led me to minor in the subject. I was also able to work as a lab assistant, which was wonderful, and as a gallery assistant, which I loved.

What professors at FSC did you have the best experience with?

I will forever have the utmost love and respect for Dr. Jim Rogers. I became an art history minor after just about two classes with him. He was also my advisor. I will never forget the day when I was feeling homesick and troubled with some of my classes, and he noticed my demeanor when no one else did. He called me to his office to talk with him and that helped tremendously. Also, Professor Eric Blackmore who taught me my foundations classes in graphic design, who I am still in contact with via Facebook. And the days in the painting studio with Professor William Otremsky were some of the best in my life so far.

What did you create as a student?

I designed the promotional brochure for the theatre and music departments. These brochures were passed out at plays and were used in the college's admissions department and sent out to prospective students and other institutions. I also designed posters for several major plays. These were designed after consulting with multiple directors, costume designers, lighting technicians and actors, thus implementing the appropriate feel and theme of the play. The posters were put up in schools and various other venues around town. I was also the hostess of the Melvin Art Gallery, and helped design the website and deliver food, medicine, and supplies for VISTE (Volunteers in Service to the Elderly).

How do you believe FSC contributed to your success?

I received a fantastic education and overall college experience. I truly believe I wouldn’t be here today without the four unforgettable years I spent at FSC.

What do you like most about being an art professor?

“It is important to do what you love every day. There will be challenges along the way, but it is possible to reinvent yourself and to seek ways to effectively overcome hurdles in life.”
Asma Nazim-Starnes

I love being able to work with energized, talented, and dedicated students every day. I get to spend time with them on an individual basis in my studio courses, which reminds me very much of my time in art studios at FSC. It’s great to witness my students growing and improving as artists every semester and to hear about their successes upon graduation. Many of my previous students are currently working in creative fields and winning awards and accolades, and that makes me feel very proud and accomplished. I also work with excellent colleagues who are supportive and pleasant to be around.

What does a professor’s day look like?

I usually have office hours in the morning, after which I have two or three classes in the afternoon. I spend my evenings working on professional development or teaching a class or two for the Art Institutes of Pittsburgh online. After that, I enjoy cooking dinner with my husband, spending some quality time with my cats, preparing for the next day, and watching shows on Netflix.

What are your plans for the future?

Combining the new software and technologies I have learned over the past few years, I will be creating new pieces of graphic design work. I am currently creating work for an art show in response to the study abroad trip I led this summer to Germany and Switzerland. I plan on furthering my investigation on calligraphy of the Sanskrit and English alphabets, along with more cultural explorations of Sri Lanka. I will use sustainable materials when I choose my substrates and methods of printing. I hope to show these works not only in Greenwood, but elsewhere in the state and out of state as well. I will also be applying for tenure and promotion next year.

What have you learned teaching that’s different from what you learned as a student?

I’ve learned about the challenges of working on a freelance basis, and working with clients in general. I’ve also discovered that the field of graphic design is ever-changing, and it is imperative to keep up with trends, to look at what designers around the world are creating, and to always be on top of latest advancements in software and hardware. I am also experiencing what it is like to be on the other side of the classroom, especially in very large classes of more than sixty students at a time.

Have you created any art pieces for charity?

I have designed several posters and banners for the Humane Society of Greenwood, South Carolina for their 4th Annual Heart and Sole Dog Walk. As a volunteer, I continue to offer my time and services to this organization. I am also the faculty advisor for the Lander Animal Advocate Group on campus.

What advice do you have for students or young alumni?

Get involved with as many activities on campus as possible. Take walks after dinner around Lake Hollingsworth and visit Lake Morton over the weekends. Attend art shows. This may sound cliché, but the years you will spend as an undergrad at FSC will be some of the best years of your life. Study hard, but also be sure to have fun. Get to know people from all around the world. See if you can get together to cook international meals for each other. Talk to your teachers and pick their brains as much as possible. You never know when you will need them as a reference for graduate school or a career.

It is important to do what you love every day. There will be challenges along the way, but it is possible to reinvent yourself and to seek ways to effectively overcome hurdles in life and in your career.

Check out Asma's work!