UC Santa Cruz Arts Division Presents 'Find Your Path!'

The signature event of Arts Professional Pathways helps guide students through arts careers and opportunities.

Arts Professional Pathways is an initiative that helps advance the Arts Dean's broader goals for student success. Find Your Path! is its signature event, says L. Esthela Bañuelos, the Arts Division’s assistant dean for student success and chief of staff. Find Your Path! is a  two-day experience that guides students through potential career pathways through both in person and online events.

Last week, Find Your Path! welcomed students to in-person workshops at the eXperimental Theater on the UC Santa Cruz campus. They were guided through putting together resumes, cover letters, portfolios and more. Students attended a panel composed of UC Santa Cruz career specialists including: Eric Curiel, the associate director of career engagement; Holly Hoeksema, a career engagement specialist; and Yasheng She, a Ph.D. Candidate in the UC Santa Cruz Film and Digital Media Department. 

The first day closed out with keynote speaker Valéria Miranda, the director of the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Galleries. She went into detail about her career journey as a non-linear experience, where she only came into a successful career in the arts after volunteering at museums while pursuing her work as a therapist.

Even after entering the arts, Miranda’s career took many twists and turns. She pursued her MBA as a way of helping arts organizations become economically sustainable. “I've always been driven by curiosity, equity and community,” she says. She encouraged students to pursue their careers creatively, being led not solely by their passion for art, but by a desire to learn and grow even if that takes them away from the life they’ve envisioned for themselves.

In the continuing efforts to “demystify the creative industries and ensure equitable opportunity and access for art students,” as Bañuelos puts it, the second day of Find Your Path! featured UC alumni and creative professionals who have successfully navigated a career in the arts. These were broken down into four zoom sessions based on fields including careers in entertainment, careers in museums, careers in music, and careers in arts education.

For some alumni, such as Matthew Prescott, a TV and film editor currently working on the show All American at the CW, his career was started thanks to his connections from UC Santa Cruz. The summer after graduating Prescott interned at Blumhouse Productions, where he was hired full time. He knew about the role thanks to a fellow alumni who had posted about it. 

“I'm extremely grateful for that internship because it really served as a launch pad for my career and where I am today,” says Prescott. He left students with bits of advice including “if you're on time to something you're late,” and “to never settle and get complacent at a job, keep finding ways to grow and learn.”

Other graduates came into the world of arts and entertainment through less direct pathways. Bettina Sherick, an alumna of UC Davis and the Global Head of Digital Intelligence for Prime Video, had an entire career before she got into entertainment. While working on her MBA in the 90s, one of her fellow students suggested buying her books at a small online bookstore known as Amazon. Realizing the potential of this space, Sherick spent her early career in retail, and finding ways to make online retail possible. “My whole career, just all of a sudden became ecommerce and the Internet and everything digital,” she says.

Sherick spent many years of her career creating ecommerce spaces for companies including Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox. “I fell in love with the data, like what we were learning about audiences,” says Sherick, which led her to get a certificate in data science from UC Berkeley. When the pandemic hit she had just started working at Warner Brothers (again) trying to “understand how people are moving back to movie theaters based on mobility data from mobile phones and search data of people looking for movies.”

Sherick moved to Prime Video a few years ago to work on the data analytics for Rings of Power, she’s a huge Tolkien fan. “My role is to help the organization understand the power of digital intelligence,” she says. “I try not to tell creatives what to do, I tell creatives what customers are saying.”

Arts Division alumni have worked successfully in the arts both near and far. Some work on campus or locally at Santa Cruz’s Museum of Art History. While others like Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, a featured panelist for her career in music, has been seen in more than 50 music documentaries, including HBO’s much anticipated series about Taylor Swift.

Find Your Path! continues to be an integral source to students for navigating their futures. “This  is critically important particularly for underrepresented and first gen college students,” says  Bañuelos, emphasizing the value of the Arts Division’s Arts Professional Pathways and efforts like it to those “seeking to navigate the hidden curriculum of the university as well as the distinctive challenges of breaking into arts careers.” The Arts Division works to ensure that the resources available to students make that journey more accessible. 

For more information on Find Your Path! 2024 click here.