Winning Holiday Card Designs Celebrate Coming Together in a Turbulent Year

Winning Holiday Card Designs Celebrate Coming Together in a Turbulent Year

A woman waves to friends via Zoom on her computer

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 14, 2020) — The winner of the 2020 Holiday Design Contest was revealed Friday during a Facebook Live event hosted by President Havidán Rodríguez and Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Christakis.

The three finalists received University scholarship grants, and the winning design, by sophomore Mehr Sharma, will be made into the University’s holiday card.

Sharma’s illustration, which won her a $1,000 scholarship, depicts family, friends and classmates on a Zoom call. “It’s indicative of the turbulent year we've all had but still recognizes the resilience humanity has had through it all,” she said.

Sharma, a Political Science major with minors in History and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said the idea came to her because finding new ways to keep in touch has been so important during the pandemic.

“There are nods to the different battles this year has brought to us, but ultimately it shows us how human joy can emanate even through the roughest of times, together,” she said of her drawing. Sharma said that separation, isolation, quarantine – all the “new normals” – also brought a new understanding. “It made me realize it's okay to need people, because that's love. Because that's just what humans do: persevere in their beautiful little ways. Even through screens and choppy internet connections.”

Senior Biology major Nova Turner won a $650 scholarship for her design of a snowy Podium with two students, wearing facemasks and bumping elbows. Turner said the Podium was an obvious choice because it’s where students come together.

Illustration of snowy Podium, with 2 people in face masks bumping elbows
Nova Turner's 2020 holiday card design.

Turner said that in addition to the pandemic, issues of social injustice have been at the forefront this year, from nationwide protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd and the fears international students had that they wouldn’t be able to finish their studies.

“It all shook the UAlbany community because we’re a very diverse group that stands behind our students,” she said. “Even with the different pigments in our skin, we’re united as one. At the end of the day, the end of the year, the end of this pandemic, we are #OneUAlbany.”

Second runner up and winner of a $350 scholarship was Damien Kritzer, a freshman from Syracuse who plans to major in Psychology.

Kritzer’s drawing shows a winter scene with two friends sitting on a bench beside a snowman, while Damien the Great Dane lies nearby. All three are clad in UAlbany hats and scarves.

Illustration of people drinking cocoa on a bench in the snow with Damien the Great Dane at their feet
Damien Kritzer's card design.

“When I think of the holidays I think of getting together with friends and enjoying the beautiful scenery,” she said. “That's how I thought of the two students sitting on a bench enjoying hot chocolate together.”

President Rodríguez said he began the design competition in 2018 as a way to showcase the creativity and artistic talent of UAlbany students, and to create a holiday tradition on campus. The first year, there were 20 submissions, a number that doubled the following year. For this year’s contest there were 64 entries, and Rodríguez said choosing three winners was not an easy task for the judges.

The first year’s top prize winner was Anna Pellicone, an MFA student whose design included the UAlbany Carillon as a signpost with directional arrows pointing toward various locations connected to the University. Runners up, and winners of $500, were S. Jennifer Owens and Clara Meyer.

The 2019 card design unveiling capped the University’s 175th anniversary and, fittingly, the winning card featured the New York State Normal School, the precursor to UAlbany. The artist was Juliana Haliti, an MFA student, who won the $1,000 top prize. Runners up were Sara Stein and Andrea Moralse Arouz.

The University will send the holiday card out this week to its many stakeholders, and University offices, departments and schools are welcome to share it with their audiences as well.

Christakis said he looks forward to next year’s contest, when the unveiling ceremony can once again be held in the Campus Center, with an in-person gathering and refreshments to share.