Undergraduate Academic Affairs

February 11, 2015

Animating her own evolving story

Audrey Lawrence

Viviane Poulain with one of her paintings in progress.

Viviane Poulain with one of her paintings in progress.Tim Han

Viviane Poulain came to the University of Washington already passionate about the arts and an accomplished student. She was Issaquah High School’s valedictorian and loved drawing and playing viola in the school orchestra. When she got to the UW in the fall of 2013, she added computer programming and upper-level mathematics coursework to the mix. Poulain’s unique blend of talents and interests led to her selection as the 2013-14 freshman president’s medalist.

“When I was looking at colleges I was considering focusing exclusively on art, but at the UW I’ve been able to explore a lot of subjects that I probably wouldn’t have been able to at an art school, like French, creative writing or computer science,” says Poulain.

She plans to get her bachelor of fine arts in painting and drawing and is considering adding a computer science major. “I like having a balance between logical and creative pursuits, so the [computer science] classes I’ve taken have been a great way to balance out my art courses,” she says. The combination also reflects her pragmatism for future careers.

Oil on canvas still life painting by Poulain

Oil on canvas still life painting by Poulain.

“With my art major, I’m building my foundational skills so that I’ll be able to keep drawing, whether it ends up being part of my career or not.” Computer science appeals because it touches so many different fields, and Poulain foresees a future where her art and her interest in storytelling could be combined, perhaps in a career like animation or gaming.

To develop her own voice, she enrolled in a fall quarter creative writing class that offered structure around her creative process. As she developed her ideas into more fully formed stories, she appreciated how they could impact people’s lives by “validating their emotions, helping them through difficult situations and teaching them to understand things in new ways.”

About President’s Medalists

Medalists are undergraduate students of the highest caliber whose academic pursuits demonstrate interdisciplinary interests and whose co-curricular and extracurricular activities show a breadth and depth of expertise. The freshman medal is awarded to the sophomore with the highest scholastic standing for the first year of his or her coursework.

She also dabbles in the world of webcomics. She creates her own, based on fictional characters, and finds it particularly thrilling when she posts them online: “It’s kind of a powerful feeling to see people comment on them and know that I made someone somewhere in the world get emotional over a character.”

Poulain has a lot of ideas for what she might do in the future, but for now is under no need to script her plans. “Just being in an environment where I’m really pushed to keep learning and creating new things all the time is important,” she says. Her story is only gaining momentum, with a lot of exciting developments to come.