Dancer Diaries: UCLA Senior Merges Design with Advocacy

By Chelsea Bailey | February 4, 2014

 

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Senior Katie Aronat has found a way to merge her penchant for graphic design with a higher purpose – raising awareness about pediatric HIV.

As Executive Director of Design for UCLA’s Pediatric AIDS Coalition (PAC), Aronat creates the design and feel of the annual Dance Marathon, a 26-hour dance party that raises money for pediatric HIV/AIDS organizations, including its primary beneficiary, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

“It wasn’t until I got involved in Dance Marathon that I started figuring out where I wanted to go with my design work,” she said. “It changed everything.”

Now, Aronat uses her class projects as a vehicle to educate her peers about pediatric HIV.  Last semester, she worked with EGPAF’s Director of Clinical and Basic Research Jeff Safrit to create an infographic outlining the challenges facing an HIV-positive pregnant woman in sub-Saharan Africa.

“It was really successful and cool to see my peers react to something that they had no idea about,” she said. “It was so out of place – people were doing very artistic things, but this was really personal.”

This year, Aronat decided to set the same message to motion and sound, creating a compelling animated video on pediatric HIV that is as informative as it is engaging. Aronat says each of her projects is geared toward raising awareness.  

“There are many steps to making a difference, but raising awareness is one of the first things,” she said. “I don’t think people understand that this is preventable. I get that -- it’s such a complex situation and there are so many things that go into it. But if people understand prevention – that’s where change starts.”

After graduation, Aronat hopes to start a career as a graphic designer for a nonprofit organization. Though leaving PAC and UCLA will be bittersweet, Aronat says Dance Marathon has ignited something in her that’s invaluable – passion.

“This is my passion. It’s a huge part of my life, and it’s shaped who I am and what I want to come to be,” Aronat said. “Any success I have, I attribute to Dance Marathon and PAC.”

Katie Aronat is a senior at UCLA and serves on the Pediatric AIDS Coalition’s steering committee. You can check out her design portfolio here. Stay tuned for more Dancer Diaries.