Career & Education

Michael's on top

Jamaican graduates US university summa cum laude

Career & Education writer

Sunday, July 29, 2018

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Jamaican illustrator Michael Talbot graduated at the top of his class of about 300 at Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts this summer, and was named student addressee.

Talbot, 24, majored in illustration and graphic design, with a minor in animation.

While he is no stranger to success, having previously won a highly acclaimed international award, Talbot said graduating summa cum laude came as a surprise.

“I didn't know until the last week of school,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “I got a random call from a professor asking if I wanted to do the student speech since I am the top student [and that's when I knew]. It was really a surprise.”

“Even though I knew I was good at art, graduating top of my class was still a big surprise. There were other people who I looked up to and believed did better than me. This was definitely a confidence-booster,” said Talbot.

There were three other Jamaicans in the graduating class — Chord Sheriffe, Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies; Darrell Rush, Bachelor of Fine Arts; and Khyle Parke, Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Talbot, who is originally from Kingston, where he attended Ardenne High School, lives in Framington with his mom and stepdad. He currently works as a freelance illustrator.

In 2014 he won the Illustrators of the Future Contest, considered to be the most influential contest in the history of science fiction and fantasy. The contest is also known as the L Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest and is an opportunity for artists to have their work judged by professionals in the field, while giving upcoming artists a chance to be discovered by a wide audience. Talbot was among two other winners for the third quarter of the contest.

He got the highest grade in the island in visual art when he sat the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exam in 2010, and the second highest in the Caribbean.

“All my awards remind me of how good I am at what I'm doing,” Talbot said.

Still, it hasn't been a walk in the park.

“It is not necessarily easy in school. Even my art classes challenged me. Coming up with my own ideas/concepts were challenging. It was easier when I was given tasks to draw what I saw,” Talbot said.

He attributes his success to his willingness to move forward, and expresses that his mother and stepfather have been extremely supportive of his path and are overjoyed with his success.

“Things don't always go the way I plan it, but I try not to get anxious and try not to think about why it did not work in the first place and just move forward. My parents always support whatever I want to do and they tell me all the time how happy they are of me,” he said.

While he was still in school, Talbot managed to work on two children's storybooks.

“The first of them is called Jamaican Mi Seh Mi ABCs, which I finished in April last year. It's an ABC children's book with various aspects of the Jamaican culture represented by each letter. The second book, called Caterpillars Can Fly — which I actually finished a week ago — is now out as well. It's about a caterpillar who dreamed of flying, and even though everyone else kept telling him that he couldn't, he kept believing in himself until eventually one day he turned into a butterfly,” Talbot told the Jamaica Observer in a phone interview.

Both books are available for purchase on

Though Talbot says he has recently taken up dancing and music as hobbies, his true love is art, to which he dedicates most of his time. And while there are lingering thoughts about pursuing zoology, it is art that has captured him.

“My passion for art grew because I was known for it. I attribute who I am to art. I originally wanted to be a zoologist and I am still considering going to school, but over time I embraced art and just kept on drawing,” Talbot said.

The Lesley University graduation was in May.

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