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Graphic Design Graduate Volunteers Time Creating Social Media Portraits for Old Dominion Students

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Robert Lamb, who is graduating from Old Dominion on May 5 with a degree in art, made a surprising discovery as a student worker for Jeff Tanner, dean of the Strome College of Business.

Some of the entrepreneurs who were among Tanner's professional contacts were not doing the best job presenting themselves on social media. "Even some of the most successful businesspeople, you look at their LinkedIn profile, and the picture is a selfie, maybe with them holding a drink," Lamb said.

For Lamb, this represented a chance to provide a service, and promote his graphic design business at the same time.

Through his firm, Apex Design Art LLC, Lamb offered a free headshot photo shoot for ODU students seeking to professionalize their social media accounts. Over four days in March, Lamb took photos of several dozen Old Dominion students at locations around Constant Hall. The results were gratifying.

"Although I received no direct compensation, it was more than worth it for me by receiving many thank you emails from the students that came out to the photoshoot," Lamb said. The students' new social media portraits also provided significant exposure to Lamb's graphic design firm, he said.

The idea of using an entrepreneurial mindset to provide a public service also made Lamb a perfect fit for ODU ENACTUS, the University's student social entrepreneurial organization.

At the regional competition in Washington in early April, Lamb's professional social media portraits were one of six projects presented by the Old Dominion team. ODU ENACTUS advanced to the national competition hosted in Kansas City, Missouri, in May.

Connie Merriman, associate dean of the Strome College of Business and the ODU ENACTUS faculty adviser, said Lamb is one of the most self-directed achievers she has encountered at Old Dominion.

"He has achieved some significant goals that required a great deal of discipline and sacrifice. He is extremely talented and holds himself to a standard of excellence that many could not even comprehend," Merriman said.

"The best part of being adviser to the ODU ENACTUS team is working with students from all majors, not just those in business. It is a privilege to know Robert and foster his commitment to improving the lives of others."

Lamb, who is concentrating in graphic design, came to Old Dominion in 2012 after graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk. Like many students and faculty members, he has been inspired by the diversity he has encountered. But Lamb's definition of diversity is somewhat different.

"I grew up in inner city Norfolk, and those were the people I had interacted with my whole life," he said. "Being at Old Dominion has helped to open my eyes to other peoples' experiences."

Lamb has dived right in. He has received support from the Strome Entrepreneurial Center. And his experience in the business dean's office has offered many opportunities to interact with business leaders.

Tanner, he said, has gone out of his way to include him in outreach efforts from the office.

"Dean Tanner's a great leader. He's not a boss," Lamb said. "He demands a lot, but I know he's going to be someone I can get help and advice from after I've graduated."

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