Kensley Bullins entered Virginia Tech as a science major and spent her first year in the Da Vinci Living Learning Community. There, she discovered a love of art and design by working on a project to design and fabricate a leg brace for a dog. By her second year, she had switched her major to graphic design in the School of Visual Arts (SOVA).

Bullins’s experiences at Virginia Tech fit together like a finely crafted jigsaw puzzle, each piece interlocking seamlessly to create a beautiful mosaic. Service, academics, and engagement are hallmarks of her time here.

As the president of SOVA’s student mentors and ambassadors team, Bullins volunteers at major fairs, gives tours, and is reorganizing the student leadership structure. She became a mentor to assure that first-year and transfer students have an experience as valuable as her own. “I love advocating for SOVA. The school has changed my life and I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and education I have received.”

In fall 2020, Bullins served as a first-year teaching assistant and helped students feel connected and mentally engaged. “I tried to create a place that fostered learning and connectedness, a safe place to manage anxiety, whether it was related to school or to the pandemic.”

Her mentor, Meaghan Dee, associate professor in the graphic design program, said “students struggled during COVID, both academically and emotionally, and I’m grateful that Kensley and students like her gave their time and energy to help other students during such a difficult time.”

Kensley Bullins poses in a parking lot during game day with three of the Cook Counseling Center therapy dogs, Wagner, Josie, and Derek.

Kensley Bullins poses in a parking lot with three of the Cook Counseling Center therapy dogs, Wagner, Josie, and Derek.
Kensley Bullins with (from left) Wagner, Josie, and Derek, the therapy dogs at Virginia Tech's Cook Counseling Center.

Bullins works as a branding and marketing staff member for the Animal Assisted Therapy program at the Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech. One mission of the program is to reduce the stigma around mental health, and interacting with the therapy dogs can help reduce negative human emotions. Bullins is an advocate for the program and works on social media outreach and photography. She also designed a new therapy dog sticker, which had a print run of 25,000 pieces.

Bullins’s academic accomplishments include a 4.0 GPA in her major, an overall GPA of 3.97, and she is the ninth-ranked student in Virginia Tech’s senior class. She has been on the dean’s list since 2017, and she is the recipient of the Davis, Derek Myers, and School of Visual Arts scholarships. Other departments awarded her the Megan Christenson Scholarship and the Multicultural Academic Scholarship. Bullins received an American Graphic Design Award from Graphic Design USA’s 58th Design Annual, and she was featured in its “Students to Watch” issue.

At the end of April, Bullins accepted a job with Accenture Federal Digital Studio, a third-party design and consulting firm that designs services, solutions, and products that simplify how the public engages with government. As a “visual design analyst, I will be working on UX/UI projects, but will have a chance to work with branding, campaigns, and print designs, too,” she said.

Hokie Bird and Kensley Bullins, in her Marching Virginians uniform with saxophone pose together in Lane Stadium.

Hokie Bird and Kensley Bullins in her Marching Virginians uniform and holding saxophone pose together in Lane Stadium.
Kensley Bullins and the HokieBird at a home football game in Lane Stadium.

Bullins has a lifelong love of music and she has played the saxophone for 11 years. At Virginia Tech, she was a member of the Marching Virginians for four years. She served as rank captain, a leadership position for two of those years.

With her graphic design background, she was selected to design the saxophone section’s yearly shirt for four consecutive years. Kensley was a member of the Campus Band for four years, where she was in the top four chairs every year, and she made first chair in spring 2020.

Image of a group of School of Visual Arts students and faculty at a table with laptops during DesignUP.

A group of School of Visual Arts students and faculty at a table with laptops during DesignUP.
DesignUP featured 54 graphic design students helping nonprofits from across Virginia. Clockwise from right are Kensley Bullins, Jeff Joiner, Alyssa Kennet, Kelly Nuckols, and Emily Dihn. Photo by Pippi Miller for Virginia Tech.

This April, students from the graphic design program participated in DesignUP, an all-day, philanthropic design-a-thon. Bullins served on the executive team to plan and implement the event, during which 54 graphic design students created new designs and refreshed existing graphics for 11 nonprofit organizations from across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The “UP” in DesignUP reflects the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Patrick Finley, assistant professor of graphic design, developed the event as a project for a capstone course he was teaching. “It is important for our students to not just be good designers but also for them to be good people who use their design skills to make a positive impact. Kensley is a good-hearted as they come. She is the sort of student that makes me glad to be a teacher."

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