"I have to admit, I'm an overachiever," joked Katie Der, '11. "I thrive when I have a lot on my plate."

Der came to Richmond in the enviable position of having a game plan; during her first year she declared a major in business administration with a concentration in marketing and a minor in studio art. The combination would give her the chance to explore her creativity while gaining a strong foundation of business knowledge. The balance would also work toward her long-term goal — landing a job at an advertising agency in New York.

In the spring of her freshman year Der began working as a gallery attendant in the University Museums. She was searching for the perfect summer job when she came across a posting for the Harnett Summer Fellowship, which provides one student with the opportunity to co-organize an exhibition of art and objects from the Museum's permanent collection. Der applied and was accepted to be the Harnett Fellow for the summer of 2008.

Over the course of the 10-week fellowship, Der co-curated two exhibits: "Building the Collection," which encompassed recent acquisitions of the museums, and "This is War," bringing together pieces that conveyed war from diverse perspectives and time periods throughout history. Her main focus was on "Building the Collection," which would run for a month in the Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center.

Der worked with Richard Waller, the executive director of University Museums, going through every single piece in the recent acquisitions and recording information about who donated the piece or when it was purchased. Once the 30 pieces were selected for the exhibit, Der's research began.

"In putting together a portfolio for 'Building the Collection,' we wanted to include a lot of different eras and styles of art," she said. "I spent hours at the library every day, researching the history and techniques of each piece selected for the exhibit."

Once the pieces were thoroughly researched Der worked with Waller, matting and framing the pieces, figuring out the layout and writing exhibition labels.

Prior to setting up the exhibits, Der made a trip to New York on the $500 travel stipend provided by the fellowship. She visited the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, getting behind-the-scenes tours of both museums. When she returned to Richmond it was time to start putting together the exhibitions, which opened in August 2008. Der gave a lecture on "Building the Collection" in September during Family Weekend.

"The whole process was really new to me and there were times where I felt like I didn't know what I was doing," said Der, who worked with all eight members of the University Museums staff. "I essentially had eight bosses but everyone was so helpful and encouraging. They gave me a lot of freedom to learn how to do things in my own way."

Der continued to work as a gallery attendant during the fall of her sophomore year but, true to her high-achieving nature, she continued to look for extracurricular opportunities. As it turned out, she didn't have to look far.

Having grown up in Richmond, Der had long known about the Martin Agency, a locally based advertising agency considered to be one of the best in the U.S. She'd made contact with the agency as a freshman, requesting information on their internship program. Now, as sophomore with some creative experience and a few business classes under her belt, Der applied for the Martin Agency's Student Workshop program. The 10-day program consists of interactive seminars and lectures about advertising and is held twice a year, competitively limited to 15 students.

"The application was really unique," said Der. "It was 10 pages of creative challenges — one was even like Mad Libs."

Out of 100 applicants, Der was one of the talented 15 accepted for the winter break workshop. Between listening to lectures from respected professionals in the field of advertising, the students were split into three groups and tasked with creating a pitch for selling the iPhone at Walmart. At the end of the workshop, the students presented their ideas to the CEO and other major executives at the Martin Agency.

"It was such a neat experience to present to real ad agency execs," said Der. "Totally worth the all-nighters we spent coming up with the pitch!"

After the gig at the Martin Agency Der got right to work looking for an internship for the summer of 2009. Encouraged by the staff at the Career Development Center, she e-mailed more than 40 ad agencies in New York City, asking about internships. Choosing from the responses she received, Der decided to spend the summer working at Furman Roth Advertising. The agency's small size will allow her to work in nearly every department, getting the hands-on experience she'd been hoping for.

"I'm excited because I'll be able to see all sides of the advertising business and I'll be able to see what aspect I like working in best," said Der.

At the end of the summer Der will head to Barcelona, Spain, where she will study abroad for the fall semester of her junior year. She'll be taking marketing and business courses at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra but as far as extracurriculars, Der plans on simply travelling and enjoying a life immersed in another culture.

"Study abroad will be my break — I'm really looking forward to it!"