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“Although born on different edges of the world, we quickly became family when we met at that boot camp.”

Shako is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dheeraj is from Mumbai, India. Keilani is from Guam. And Kelly hails from good ol’ Virginia.

We met for the first time in August 2015 during Experience Design (XD) boot camp, a week-long crash course offered the week before classes officially started to prepare us for the VCU Brandcenter curriculum. During boot camp not only were we introduced to each other, but we were also introduced to Brandcenter alum Jeff MacDonald’s mantra, “make things, not ads” which we carry with us daily.

Two years ago when we started this journey, we didn’t predict the friendship that now unites us. Although born on different edges of the world, we quickly became family when we met at that boot camp.

That’s the culture of the Brandcenter. It’s a place to learn, create, grow, laugh, and sometimes weep out your woes with your buds. We’ve spent countless hours together without a dull moment.

Beyond the doors of Brandcenter, we mostly enjoy good coffee and good conversation at Lamplighter Coffee, where we are currently composing this. Just over winter break, the squad got together and decorated Christmas cookies with Kelly’s mom. The cookies themselves ….not our best work. But watching Keilani eat a cookie that Shak accidentally sprinkled black pepper with … pretty great. Kelly of course recorded the entire cookie making fiasco in 360 camera. The best part of hanging is sharing the good energy and not taking ourselves too seriously.

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short months, we will all be graduating together. What we do know is that nothing will break our bond.

-Dheeraj Govindraju, Keilani Mansfield, Shako Oteka, Kelly Padgett, experience design track, class of 2017