Illinois State alum JoAnna Sawallisch ’16 took a few turns before finding her perfect career. Like many college students, her journey to success was a winding path.

Sawallisch once dreamed of becoming an art teacher, an interior designer, and a web designer. After high school, she attended Rock Valley College and began taking graphic arts classes. These classes confirmed to her that she was doing what she truly wanted to do.

“I guess you could say that I had an idea of what I wanted to do, something within design. I just had to find out which type it was and that was eventually found,” said Sawallisch.

She earned her Associate in Arts, as well as an Associate in Applied Science within Graphic Arts Technology. Sawallisch believed she had accomplished what she needed to. She was ready to take on the world and enter the workforce. Little did she know, another turn was in store for her.

A professor at Rock Valley told her about the “Two Plus Two” partnership between the community college and the Department of Technology at Illinois State. Sawallisch took a chance and came to visit ISU.

“I met with Dan Wilson, the head of the Graphic Communications program at ISU. He gave me a tour and talked with me about the program. After that day, I knew it was meant to be,” said Sawallisch.

She soon transitioned smoothly into the Graphic Communications program in the Department of Technology. Graphic Communications students learn how to produce graphic media in all its forms—everything from eye-catching packaging and print publications to websites and other interactive technology. Students choose a concentration in either Cross Media and Packaging Technology or Web Content Management.

“It helped mold me into the woman I am today and helped me to the start of a bright future for myself. ISU is nothing but an amazing place.” — JoAnna Sawallisch

Sawallisch chose the Cross Media route. Her classes taught her the art of print media production, color management, package design, and package production.

Sawallisch soon found her place within the ISU community through involvement in several registered student organizations. She was heavily involved in Colleges Against Cancer and Alpha Phi Omega.

She was the marketing chair within Colleges Against Cancer where she designed fliers for upcoming events. Within APO she was the merchandise chair and the pledge trainer. There she would design promotional items for the fraternity and help new pledges become full time members.

“I made a lot of awesome friends in APO and got to experience a lot of new adventures I would never have had the opportunity of doing if I had never joined,” said Sawallisch.

During Sawallisch’s final year at Illinois State, the visual communications firm GFX International gave a presentation in one of her classes. The company intrigued her so much that she decided to reach out to them. She interviewed with the company and got the job before she was even graduated.

Sawallisch is now a project manager and account manager at GFX in Grayslake. She is responsible for working closely with clients. She plays the go-to person and makes sure jobs get finished effectively and efficiently. She credits Illinois State for teaching her valuable skills that have helped her perform her best.

“It helped mold me into the woman I am today and helped me to the start of a bright future for myself. ISU is nothing but an amazing place,” said Sawallisch.

Sawallisch’s journey to success took many turns, but she wouldn’t change a single moment. Her path had led her to where she feels she truly belongs.

Logan Sellers can be reached at