Alum’s Art Becomes Mobile Message

As chair of Wilmington University’s Media Design Programs in the College of Technology, Associate Professor Susan L. Gregg often fields requests for student artwork.

Such was the case when Dr. Johanna Bishop, director of Behavioral Science Programs in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, contacted her last spring. Dr. Bishop was preparing to host WilmU’s fourth annual Human Trafficking Symposium and she asked Gregg if she might have a student who could design some artwork for the event.

Gregg says she immediately thought of Marissa Janicki “because she was such a talented and highly motivated student.”

She contacted Janicki, who readily agreed and set to work, creating posters for the event and, eventually, designing six ads of different sizes and layouts that appeared on DART buses in Wilmington. The bus wraps carried five separate messages about human trafficking.

Janicki, who received her degree in Media Design in May of 2018, says she had already done research on women’s issues for her classes and had completed “projects that involved sexual harassment of women and sexual objectification.”

When she got deeper into the study of human trafficking, however, she says she was “shocked by the statistics.”

Trafficking bus wrap
Trafficking bus wrap with boy whose hand has a written "no"

“A lot of people, when they think of human trafficking, think of ‘Taken’ (the 2008 film starring Liam Neeson as a man whose daughter is kidnapped and forced into prostitution) and think of it as something that happens in other countries. But it happens everywhere, and people may not know the back stories of the victims.”

As Janicki indicates, the United States is not immune to the problem. In 2018, nearly 11,000 cases of human trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, according to the Polaris Project, which tracks such statistics. That represented a 25 percent increase over 2017.

“Each year we find the need to raise awareness becomes greater than before,” says Dr. Bishop. “That’s because we are just beginning to understand the depth and breadth of this problem in society. Fighting human trafficking will require a massive educational effort to change the acceptability of ignoring the most vulnerable human beings among us.

“I appreciate DELDOT’s collaboration in anti-trafficking efforts by displaying Marisa’s art on the buses. I’m so pleased that Wilmington University students are on the forefront of anti-trafficking efforts.”

Janicki says she’s happy not only that her work helped to bring awareness to human trafficking, but that “it was a way to give back to Wilmington University and share some credit with them.”

Since receiving her degree, she has gone on to freelance as a graphic designer in the Wilmington area while working full-time as marketing director and office administrator at New Castle Insurance, in Old New Castle, Delaware.

Wilmington University recently began offering an 18-credit certificate in Human Trafficking Awareness. It will be the only one of its kind in the country.