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Alumni Spotlight: Sam Riehl '18

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Alumnus Sam Riehl ‘18 has had a passion for building and design from an early age. At just eight years old, he began exploring his interest in metal work as a young blacksmith. Now, Riehl has grown his talents on a larger scale as a senior industrial designer at Sabin, an acoustic lighting company based in Chicago.

Riehl was the first employee hired at Sabin, which was founded in 2020. The startup company has since grown to 12 people, allowing Riehl to expand his skills as an industrial designer while learning the ins and outs of starting a business from the ground up. “Since it’s a small company, there weren’t any processes initially set up,” Riehl said. “We got to create those, which was nice but also a massive responsibility. I’ve been exceptionally busy over the last few years, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”  

Before he lived in the Windy City, Riehl was a student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Growing up in Acadiana, he was surrounded by the University and frequently rode his bike with his father around campus. “It was really awesome to be able to see where I might one day go to school,” he said.

When Riehl became a student, he dove headfirst into the industrial design program and a variety of student organizations. He was a member of the Student Government Association and the Industrial Designers Society of America. However, some of his fondest memories as a student involved partnerships with Red Bull, the famed energy drink company.

Through his outreach, Riehl secured a sponsored project with Red Bull representatives that allowed the industrial design program to create a bike travel bag for professional flatland BMX rider Terry Adams. “That project turned into my senior capstone, and it was a really wonderful cap to my college career,” he said.

Riehl also finished his collegiate journey by competing with two other UL Lafayette students in the “Red Bull Can You Make It?” contest. Riehl’s team was one of 200 teams from over 60 countries selected to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The trio had to travel across Europe using only Red Bull as currency. After bartering for meals and places to sleep throughout the continent for a week, their team ended up placing 15th in the global competition.

With four years of wonderful memories as a Ragin’ Cajun under his belt, it was time for Riehl to figure out his next steps in life and his professional career. He and his now-wife, Brandii, were both graduating and looking for a new place to grow together. Chicago kept coming back as their top city of choice, but Riehl needed to figure out how to secure a job in the area. “I remember talking to my advisor about this, and he gave me the name of a student he’d previously taught who worked at a lighting company in Chicago,” he said.

Picture of Sam working a Sabin information booth.With the support of his UL Lafayette network, Riehl was able to land his first job in Chicago and begin his next chapter in a brand-new city. After a few more career moves, he eventually ended up at Sabin, where he focuses on designing acoustic lighting solutions and products for clients nationwide.

As he continues growing as an industrial designer, Riehl is excited to see Sabin expand and even finds time to explore his entrepreneurial side. Even though he may live across the country, he’s incredibly proud that his foundation was shaped in Acadiana at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “It’s just really special being from somewhere like nowhere else,” he said.

 

Photo Captions: Main: Sam working on an industrial design project. (Submitted) In-Story: Sam working a Sabin information booth. (Submitted)

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