When Alex Kamphorst arrived at the University of Miami, he was a marine science major with aspirations to work in marine conservation. In fact, the prestigious undergraduate program at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science first attracted Kamphorst to attend Miami. But after a year in the program, Alex became skeptical of his career choice.
“It was like my right brain took over and I needed to be in an environment where I could be more creative,” Kamphorst said.
At that time, he was heavily involved in CaneStage and Hurricane Productions Daytime Programming & Special Events. His involvement in these organizations along with his hunger for a creative outlet drove Kamphorst to search for a major in which he could thrive.
“I’m a very social person and with the sciences it’s a lot of time spent in labs either with just a couple people or in solitary. I knew that I wanted to have a lot more of a communicative impact on those that I interacted with. I started to think about what I actually wanted to do and I realized that I really liked the event management that I had done with HP and other committees I had helped out with,” he said.
At the end of sophomore year, Kamphorst made the switch from RSMAS to the School of Communication’s Public Relations program. But like most students who change their major, he was uncertain as to whether or not he had made the right decision – after all, it was a drastic change switching from a STEM-based field into a social science.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to get out of the PR program, but as I got deeper into the curriculum and what it actually entailed, I realized that I connected with everything that I was learning. I realized I’m in the right place, this is what I want to do,” Kamphorst said.
Talking to him now, you would never guess that marine science was his original field of interest. The way he speaks of public relations implies that the field has been Kamphorst’s lifelong passion. His fervor for the industry can be heard in his voice and seen in his eyes—it’s enough to make anyone want to discover that same excitement.
As a resident assistant in the University Village for the past two years, Kamphorst has been able to relate to residents who are unsure about their own majors – even in their junior or senior years. He encourages these students to explore other fields of interest just as he did when he was in their shoes. “It’s important to keep your options open,” he reminds them. “I would have never known that [public relations] was what I wanted to do if I didn’t go through that.”
In addition to serving as an RA, Kamphorst is also the vice president of membership and recruitment for the Public Relations Student Society of America and a student manager in the School of Communication’s coveted Public Relations Experience Program (PREP). Through his volunteer involvement with PREP, Kamphorst lends his public relations and communications skills to a variety of companies and organizations throughout the Miami area. Kamphorst has attended the non-profit galas or organizations such as Make-A-Wish, Special Olympics and Comic Cure. At these events, he received the opportunity to practice media relations, photography and a host of other practical skills.
Kamphorst is also employed by the Department of Housing & Residential Life (HRL) as a student marketing assistant – a role he considers to be his most valuable. In this role, Kamphorst designs promotional material for HRL’s many programs and initiatives. And, despite his creative and high-quality work, Kamphorst considers himself to be an accidental designer.
“If you would have told me in high school that I would be a graphic designer someday I would have responded with you’re crazy, I can’t draw anything let alone a straight line,” he said.
Kamphorst credits much of his professional development and design work to his supervisor Mike Piacentino, HRL’s marketing specialist. “I’ve learned a lot here and I can now confidently call myself a graphic designer,” Kamphorst noted.
As his time at the U ends, Kamphorst wishes that he could go back and tell his freshman self one thing: “Don’t take yourself too seriously, nothing is that deep. It is okay to not know who you are and it is okay to just live in the moment. You don’t have to have your whole life planned out.”
This profile originally appeared at https://news.miami.edu/stories/2018/04/an-accidental-designer.html.