After working in fundraising and arts management for over 12 years, Christina Deemer was thinking of a career change.
She started experimenting with online coding tutorials through Codecademy and classes with Girl Develop It and wrote her first line of code in 2013. That was before she decided to dig deeper through a certificate program. Upon discovering the UArts Continuing Education Program, she knew she was in the right place.
“The risk was manageable, and I had the opportunity to work on larger projects over a longer period of time,” Deemer says. “Several other people in the program were in a similar place, looking to change careers or looking for a different direction. The classes were small, and I got to learn at a pace that was appropriate for me. I got to prove to myself that my interest in changing careers wasn’t just a lark.”
Today, Deemer is a UX developer at Interactive Mechanics and she loves it. “Part of what made me so competitive for the job was my ability to demonstrate my work through my UArts portfolio,” she says. “I had really awesome instructors who helped me grow as a developer in really important ways. UArts not only gave me the skills but also the confidence to make this important change in my life.”
UArts Continuing Education Program offer certificates on topics such as web design and social media marketing, taught by professionals who work in the Philly tech scene. The program is focused on teaching practical skills, ones you can use to land a job once you finish the program, says Caitlin Perkins, director of continuing education and special programs at UArts’ Division of Continuing Studies.
“Classes are structured like a workplace, and we hire quality faculty who are doing this work as practice, not just as a theory,” she says.
UArts created a cohort model for UArts’ Continuing Education Program, where students move through a specific certificate curriculum with a group. Previously, students chose several different classes to make up a certificate, which offered flexibility but caused them to lose out on community. The new model also guarantees a cohesive program.
Throughout, students have continued access to and support from the faculty (lightning tech talks led by guest speakers are a favorite) as well as Perkins herself for mentorship. With evening classes offered from 6 to 9 p.m., students find time to “still have a life, a job, a family and balance,” she said.
Here’s a look at three other students who graduated from the program and landed jobs in their field.
Can Boluk, a current UArts student, majored in marketing in college and wanted to explore the creative side of the business. “We live in a visual culture, so strong design and visual story telling are extremely important,” Boluk says. “I wanted to be competitive in my field and broaden my skill sets.” Now Boluk works as a designer at Center City’s Stack Creative.
LeeAnn Kinney, a graduate of the web design certificate program and organizer of Philly’s women in tech leadership conference, Ela Conf, currently teaches a web portfolio design course at UArts. She says the UArts community is one huge differentiator. “I still keep in touch with people from my class and at least two of them are in full-time front-end developer jobs,” she says, adding that the small class size lends itself to making friends and networking. To Kinney, having students of several different career backgrounds, like graphic designers, photographers and fiction writers, also helps create an interesting community.
Brian Gantick, who now works as a developer at South Philly web dev firm P’unk Ave, was coming from an undergrad in biopsychology and wanting to change career paths. Prior to UArts, he says he didn’t really know where to start. After a foundations class at UArts, he developed a passion for web design and development. Gantick began freelancing on top of his job, using exercises he had done at UArts as portfolio positions, and landed an internship, eventually leading to a full-time position.