Gabriel André Ramos

First-Generation Student


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“I’m a first-generation student … I was raised by Salvadoran immigrants who came here in the 1980s and ‘90s. Growing up, I’ve been around a Hispanic household, having that mindset of always working hard and being very diligent and responsible. After high school, I went to a community college [to study] graphic design because it’s something I was somewhat interested in. And the more I was into it, I got more interested. And after three or four years at community college, I eventually transferred to MICA [Maryland Institute College of Art], which is where I’m currently at right now. Trying to get my bachelor’s in graphic design. And one of my biggest career goals right now is to become a creative director once I get out of school and building my way up to get to that point.“

Designing for Growth

Human-driven growth

“At my community college, my typography professor was great because not only was he the first professor that actually gave me very good, constructive criticism, but when he gave it he was also very warm about it. He was very like, ‘You did this and this, I really liked this, this can be better, but we can do this to support you to grow.’ He had a little bit more of a personal relationship with every single one of us trying to understand us a little bit better. And trying to get us to be the best we can be in trying to help us grow … [Most] professors [are there to] give you a grade, but a good professor will try to help you grow.”

AI-driven growth

“Right now, I think I’m in a space where I’m really trying to figure out where AI is applicable to my projects, not in terms of doing the work for me, but how can I use it to give me a competitive edge, almost. How can I use it to make my workflow smoother, and how can I use it to, essentially, assist me in whatever I’m doing?

AI vs. Human-driven growth

“I would love [AI] to be able to teach me skills I’ve always wanted to learn … I’m someone who will Google a Photoshop tutorial or an Illustrator tutorial to try to learn that, but [I’d love] something that will be like, ‘Hey, we think this would apply really well to what you’re doing.’ This is how you can grow. This is how you can learn. Giving me something I can grasp onto so that I can keep on growing as a designer. Just because I feel like that’s something that’s very rare to find within a professor anywhere else … And I think that’s something that I’ve been kind of all about is, ‘How can I continue to grow as a person? How can I continue to grow as a designer?’ I want [AI] to help me grow in ways I didn’t think was possible … help me think outside the box.

Designing for Agency

Human-driven agency

“My biggest supporter has always been mom. She’s always been there for me even through the times when I was in high school and I wasn’t doing so great. She’ll try to push me in the right direction. Even in community college… she was like, keep pushing, keep trying to pursue what you want to do… I can always rely on her when I call and [say] “I don’t know what to do,” and she’ll give me some guidance and then allow me to make the decision for myself as opposed to choosing a decision for me.”

AI-driven agency

“How can I use AI to give me resources, research, and inspiration? I feel like I have a very narrow idea of how I want things to look like, and a certain feeling, I guess, a certain style. But if I want to branch out, if I want to try something new, AI can potentially open doors to things I had no idea about. [For example,] if I’m looking for other assets to add to a project, like a voice actor, obviously as a student, I don’t have access to a large source pool of voice actors. If you want to just have someone say something really quickly, who’s not you, you can use AI voice generators.”

AI vs. Human-driven agency

“The amount of options an AI-generated response would give you would be similar to how my mom is when she would give me advice based on word-of-mouth opportunities. And with AI, you would kind of get similar results, even a Google search by AI would be a little bit more in depth, and it’ll try to give you the best opportunities for your specific scenario, whether that’s an internship, scholarship, or even schools. I think it can help you with that search, those things take a lot of digging, a lot of understanding and knowing what those programs are or what they offer.

The biggest difference when it comes to my mom, [is that] she obviously has her own idea of how she would approach it, and she also knows me and knows the things that I’ve failed and succeeded at. With AI, that relationship, that bond is not going to be 100% the same. If you get overwhelmed if you have to write, let’s say for an application for a scholarship or an internship, they might have asked you to write a cover letter. If my mom knows I’m not much of a writer, she’s gonna be like, ‘Hey, this would be a good opportunity for you, but just know that this is going to take a lot of brainpower and a lot of your time to actually do this.’ And AI wouldn’t necessarily have that understanding of me or anyone else who’s trying to look for resources like that.”

Designing for Belonging

Human-driven belonging

“I was working at a grocery store, in the deli, and I was working with my manager on inventory one night. I had been working with that manager for about a year, doing relatively well. She looked at me [and said], ‘Hey, you did a really good job with this. I really want to give you an opportunity to get a full-time or a team leader position, maybe that’s something you can work toward …’ She looked at me and stopped mid-sentence. “It’s not that I wouldn’t want you to do that, but I know you want to do other things, to pursue design, to pursue something artistic, so I really don’t want to force your hand or push you in that direction because I know you want to do something more.’ And so that kind of took that sense of belonging away … From feeling like I belonged at that grocery store to feeling like I belonged somewhere else, somewhere more suited to what I want to do. It honestly really motivated me … it was a really pivotal moment in trying to figure myself out and trying to understand what I wanted to do … to get back into school. And it got me out of that feeling like school wasn’t for me, [to] actually give a really heartfelt attempt at school again. I’m very grateful toward that manager. I’m very grateful that we had that conversation at that point in time.”

AI-driven belonging

“With AI, to have that … I wouldn’t even say a connection, but to think of it as a resource … it hasn’t always been there for me. I haven’t always thought to go to AI to find a certain resource. There’s a certain human nature that comes with someone [who] wants the best for you. They’re going to try to give you the best opportunity, and of course, AI is going to give you the opportunities but [it doesn’t] know what’s going to best fit you in that moment in time.”

AI vs. Human-driven belonging

“I feel like it would come down to the relationship between a mother and her son, and that’s a bond, that’s something that’s very unique in itself. She understands me, knows my background, knows the things I’ve personally gone through. My mom is a very attentive person, she’s a very detailed person. She pays attention to the little things. It’s not something that can be given within a couple of sentences… I’ve been next to my mom my whole life, so it’s definitely never going to be exactly the same … I think that would be the biggest issue [for AI] is [having] that level of understanding.

With humans, I feel like everyone has their own world. So you never know what’s going on with someone else. If someone’s having a bad day, they might respond a little bit more negatively than you would have hoped. [But] AI is going to be consistent. It’s not going to do that to you. It’s not going to say, ‘I’m not in the mood right now, let’s not talk.’ I think that’s one of the biggest differences. It’s something that’s always there. No matter what, no matter if you want it to, it’s going to be there if you need it.

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