Debbie Onyibe (B.F.A., advertising, 2020), SCAD Atlanta 2020 Salutatorian

Salutatorian Debbie Onyibe

Robert Almand

Debbie Onyibe (B.F.A., advertising, 2020), SCAD Atlanta 2020 Salutatorian, is Chief Executive Officer of Spirête Inc., an Atlanta-based branding and advertising agency committed to creating “a global ripple effect with groundbreaking, creative ideas.” As a SCAD advertising student, Onyibe created prospective campaigns for brands including Oatly, Goat Story Coffee, The New York Times, and Cadillac. Her work utilizes an integrated advertising skill set including design, art direction, typography, copywriting, and business. As founder of Spirête Inc., Onyibe is dedicated to sharing new stories and tackling creative challenges in a changing world. Congratulations Debbie, and to the SCAD graduating class of 2020.

Debbie Onyibe:

I moved from Nigeria to the United States when I was a teenager. I was interested in art, music and writing, and wanted to meet new people and experience new traditions and cultures. I toured SCAD and it spoke to me. I felt inspired when I walked into buildings and saw other students’ art work. I could sense the excitement in my classrooms. SCAD felt like the place where I could grow into the person I envisioned becoming.

One of my favorite classes freshman year was in foundation studies. My professor, Chin-Cheng Hung, was there to help us grow. I never felt as though my talents were being judged solely against my classmates. He graded me off of my growth and development, which was different from anything I had experienced before. I felt cared for and seen as an individual. I loved my professors Trina Brown, Christopher Bundy, and Todd Wirth. I could name so many!

People I never imagined meeting were in my dorm, my classes and at my lunch table. I made friends from India, China, Korea, and Milwaukee. We shared stories of our parents, our homes and our love for creating. It didn’t take long to realize I made the best decision of my life.

Those conversations with friends in Forsyth Park, or at Arts Café, are when I learned I wanted to study advertising. Advertising is not limited to traditional ideas or cultural norms. Advertising is constantly changing, connecting in a way today that it won’t tomorrow.

Understanding what’s going on in society and having a diverse look into other perspectives allows us to connect on a more meaningful level. I started to think of advertising as a superpower. When it is done right, it can change the world. I was not only working towards my degree, I was becoming someone who will drive change.

One of my favorite projects I got to work on was an assignment for The New York Times. A lot of consumers are not taking the time to sort out factual news from opinion pieces. News literacy is lacking in society. Headlines are all people read, and soundbites are what they remember. Our project focused on ways to draw readers deeper into the stories, emphasize facts, and highlight opinion vs. hard news. It changed the way I consume information and allowed me to see how others take in information.

SCAD fosters an environment where students from all around the world collaborate with each other, while learning to stretch ourselves. I made sure to dive fully in the opportunities and resources SCAD offers. One of the things I am most proud of was a campus ministry program I began. My faith is important to me and SCAD allowed me to bring that aspect of my life into the community. At its very core, SCAD is a place where we can all come together to grow, develop our skills and achieve our goals, regardless of discipline, regardless of where we started.

SCAD allowed me to be me, and in turn SCAD changed my life.

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SCAD prepares talented students for creative professions through engaged teaching and learning in a positively oriented university environment.

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SCAD — The Savannah College of Art and Design

SCAD — The Savannah College of Art and Design

SCAD prepares talented students for creative professions through engaged teaching and learning in a positively oriented university environment.

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