Alumni Spotlight: How Casey Horio, '23, discovered his vocation

Horio graduated in June with a degree in digital design surrounded by fellow graduates all holding his work of art that depicted the Kubota Legacy Garden.

The first time Casey Horio, '23, stepped foot on the Seattle University campus was during Move-In Day as a declared electrical engineering major. A pandemic and two changes in major later, Horio graduated in June with a degree in digital design surrounded by fellow graduates all holding his work of art that depicted the Kubota Legacy Garden.

An artist's graphic image of a garden on the Seattle U campus

As a senior at Hawaii Baptist Academy High School in O’ahu, Hawai’i, Horio cast a wide net when applying to universities on the West Coast. SU ultimately grabbed his attention because of the merit scholarships he received that made the engineering program an affordable option.

During his freshman year, Horio realized he wasn’t enjoying his electrical engineering classes as much as he thought he would and decided to switch to computer science. That didn’t quite work out, either. Just when he thought the best decision might be to transfer to a school in Hawai’i to save money while figuring out what he wanted to do next, he discovered SU’s digital design program that allowed him to combine his creative hobbies with career interests in computer science.

“Digital design or graphic design was always something that I did as a hobby, but I didn’t consider making a career out of it,” Horio explains. “But then I saw that the digital design program would teach you graphic design and other design tools and you could form how and what you wanted to get out of the degree.”

Horio’s design experience began in high school with a class in Photoshop, but he had never taken a true art class. His first venture into art was in the fall quarter 2020 with the Design in Color class. Despite being entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he stayed engaged with the campus by acting as treasurer—now president—of the Japanese Student Association (JSA). The club’s meetings over Zoom became a needed social outlet for Horio while being mostly at home his sophomore year.

“Our club has both international students from Japan as well as people who are just interested in the culture, so I feel like it gives it a really unique dynamic where we can have cool connections between people who are interested and those who actually teach us a lot about the culture,” he says. “It gave me a little more cultural pride in terms of being Japanese. There’s a lot more diversity in Seattle than what I’m used to, so to be able to find a community that I can connect with was a positive part of my experience.”

When SU transitioned back to in-person classes in fall 2021, Horio experienced in-person art classes for the first time and fully embraced the experience. Since most of the design program’s courses are taught by the same professors, they were able to coach Horio’s development as a designer and offer customized guidance as he continued to improve in his skills.

Soon, Horio found a real-world format for implementing the techniques he was learning. He worked on merchandise and marketing pieces for the JSA cultural show and served as the graphic designer for the Student Events and Activities Council. Horio’s varied experience culminated with a recent design exhibition alongside his fellow cohorts.

“It was great putting together all our work and then putting it out there for people to see,” he says.

Post-graduation, Horio hopes to land a position working in web and UX/UI design but plans to continue doing graphic design on the side to stay connected with the design community.

“The design program allowed me to explore the different areas of digital design. It was helpful to have a lot of speakers come in and talk about their experience and how they found their careers,” says Horio. “Seattle U has prepared me in terms of realizing how much of a creative community there is.”

This is the second year the Seattle University Alumni Association has commissioned a graduating student to create an artistic piece to be handed to graduates as they walk across the stage at commencement. When Horio was asked to create the artwork for this year’s commencement, he wanted to create something that everyone could connect with, but also art that reflected his Japanese identity and his experience at SU including with the JSA. Ultimately, Horio chose to create a piece depicting the Kubota Legacy Garden because of the connection to Japanese culture and its central location on campus. Many people walk through the garden on the way to class, passing the Sinegal Center for Science and Innovation. Horio took pictures of the garden from many angles and redrew them in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to give a more hand-painted appearance. He then went through the same process with the Chapel of St. Ignatius, adding it to the background as a recognizable pillar of campus.

“Hopefully people will see this and be reminded of positive memories from their time here,” Horio says.  “It encapsulates Seattle U as being this Jesuit campus but also being able to embrace different cultures and ideas.”

Seattle University Alumni Association

June 13, 2023