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School of Creative Arts

Alumni success stories

Are you a UFV alumni with a BMA, BFA, BA Theatre major, Visual Arts or Theatre Diploma? We are now accepting alumni story submissions. Get featured by contacting soca@ufv.ca

Alumni interviews

Jesse Klassen

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Visual Arts

Instagram: @J.klassen.artspot / @Abby.artist.collective

Was there a certain experience that stood out during your program and educational journey at UFV? Can you explain how it impacted who you are today?

"There were many impactful moments during my undergraduate studies. I remember one early on in my degree, it was nearing the end of the semester, final projects and essays were in full swing and the stress levels were tangibly high. I had taken on a particularly difficult semester with more than a full course load and I was exhausted. I remember working in a studio class one day, it was a work period and I was standing at my easel but I was having trouble settling my mind. The professor walked over to me about halfway through the class and, recognizing that I was stressed and tired, brought me a chair. She simply said, “Jesse, I can see you’re pushing it hard this semester, don't forget to take a moment to breathe.” It was such a simple act but it carried a huge impact. As a student, especially as someone who sets high personal standards, remembering to breathe and center yourself can be such a challenge. This professor recognized a stressed and anxious student and made the decision to care, I really can’t ask for more."

How did your program/educational experience help you to obtain your career goals? What type of area do you work in now and what’s your current role?

"In the few years since graduation I have successfully started up a privately run collective art studio, exhibited my work in numerous spaces both online and in-person and am now pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts at the University of Calgary. All of this was made possible by my education at the University of the Fraser Valley. The professors in this program worked hard and invested themselves to set high academic and artistic standards, encouraging and working with students to help them excel. Due to the passion of the UFV SoCA faculty and staff, I often left the class feeling encouraged and excited about the material. I have discovered this is not the case at all institutions. UFV’s Visual Arts program is good, covering a wide range of artistic approaches with excellent studios, but the leadership and investment from the faculty and staff are what makes it great."

What types of skills (hard or soft) did you gain from your program?

"Problem-solving, critical thinking and analysis, academic writing, and a willingness to ask for and accept criticism. Skills in painting, drawing, installation and conceptual development."

Is there any advice you would give to future students at UFV?

"The main piece of advice I can offer is to take advantage of UFV’s study abroad program. I studied abroad for almost a full year experiencing other cultures, different learning environments and pedagogy, and adding life experience that I would say is priceless. UFV’s study abroad program works hard to offer incredible opportunities to students including financial assistance. My time abroad offered me some of the most impactful learning in the entirety of my academic journey."

Mitch Huttema

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Visual Arts

Was there a certain experience that stood out during your program and educational journey at UFV? Can you explain how it has impacted who you are today?

"I worked for the Cascade student newspaper for a few years during my degree. I started as a video editor and progressed to the multimedia editor and finally managing editor. Working for the Cascade allowed me to meet people from numerous departments at UFV, including my current boss at UFV who I met at an event I was covering for the Cascade. I also made life-long friends from this experience who are themselves moved on to be artists and arts advocates. Since attending UFV, we have collaborated together on several creative projects over the years, including short films and music videos. The Cascade broadened my network significantly and led to numerous opportunities to grow my career.

I also just have to mention CIVL Radio, I was on the board (and still am!) for several years and the connections I made in my work with and for the radio station have amplified opportunities in my career as a filmmaker and artist!"

How did your program/educational experience help you to obtain your career goals? What type of area do you work in now and what’s your current role?

"I am a filmmaker. There isn’t a filmmaking program at UFV (or from what I hear, hopefully, just wasn’t in my time, but there were numerous opportunities at UFV SOCA to go beyond course requirements in creative ways. The UFV SoCA faculty are extremely supportive and allowed me to take several courses as directed studies so I could develop my filmmaking skills within a Visual Arts curriculum. In the last year of my degree, I started my filmmaking company m.hutt films inc, through which I do video work for various corporate and creative clients. The Visual Arts program gives so much agency to its students that I was able to develop all the skills I needed to see a project through from conception to delivery in a professional manner as a creative freelancer and artist. The fourth-year professional development courses that were part of the BFA were absolutely instrumental in shaping how I work as a professional creative."

What types of skills (hard or soft) did you gain from your program?

"Number one thing I learned was how to take critique. Your work comes from within you, and though it may feel like it, the critique of your work is not a critique of you to be taken personally. Taking feedback tactfully is crucial in our world as artists and as people! Critique allows you to see your work from how it is viewed by a cross-section of the public. Learning how to take it, interpret it, and upgrade your work with it, can make or break you as an artist.

I learned to I had to, and how to do, my taxes as a creative professional.

First classes with Brenda and Melanie in Material Practices and Space, Form and Time, blew my mind and taught me how to look at materials (and ideas) in a completely 180 degree different way. Melanie walked into class, plopped 250 copies of the Georgia Straight newspaper and some rolls of packing tape down on the floor and said, “You have the next two hours to make whatever you want out of the materials you see in front of you, and that you can find within the room.” The next two hours of competitive creative pandemonium were mind-opening! With Brenda, our entire term was dedicated to doing every single creative sketch, painting or exercise within one book, which we found or made, within the first week of class, and it couldn’t be a sketchbook. I chose an Art History textbook I accidentally bought the wrong edition of for my class. By the end of term, with all of the various paint and materials that had been used on assignments within it, it had doubled in thickness to a width of nearly 15 cm when closed. It also had a casted wax copy of my nose affixed on the front cover which attributed to a portion of those 15 centimetres that I won’t admit.

Another key skill I learned was creative problem solving, and also how to work with what’s around you. A big part of that is often due to budget constraints and the boundaries of material properties. Once, while seeking inspiration for a no-bounds sculpture project, I went to Home Depot to look at materials and think. I stumbled across a sale on spray-foam insulation while thinking about the concepts of origin, inherited traits, and rebirth. I ended up making a giant egg, which I used in a performance piece where I hatched from within it one morning in front of my class, and then swept it up and tossed it in the dumpster. The video is still on YouTube I think."

Is there any advice you would give to future students at UFV?

"Go beyond your classes. There are so many opportunities to find work and start developing your career. Pace yourself though. Don’t take on too much at once, so that you end up bailing on any or all of it. Steady wins the race, not too fast, not too slow, that’s one of the hardest things I learned. Develop a routine, one that allows you to grow creatively. That being said, take advantage of as many opportunities as you can. You never know during which you may meet the boss, curator or supporter that kickstarts your career!"

Paige Caldwell

Bachelor of Fine Arts

Instagram @paiges.art.page

Was there a certain experience that stood out during your program and educational journey at UFV? Can you explain how it has impacted who you are today?

 "I studied visual arts in pursuit of my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at UFV. My main areas of focus were painting, print media, and sculpture, with an interest in art history. Studying art history alongside the hands-on studio courses gave me a much more in-depth perspective about what art is and what it can be. Although most of my work favoured drawing and painting, my final piece for the grad show ended up being a six-foot-tall sculpture. Having the ability to try different methods of creating art, I gained skills that greatly expanded my art practice because some concepts will work better as a painting or a print and others as sculptures.

During my third year, I submitted a piece to the Reach Gallery for an upcoming group show. It was my very first public show outside of school and I don’t think I would have applied without the encouragement from my UFV SoCA professors. It was a great experience getting the opportunity to show alongside two excellent artists and get a glimpse of the larger community I could be a part of. The support and feedback I received from my professors and classmates helped guide me into the artist I am today and gave me the confidence to put my work out there."

Success stories


Haley Harasemow ‌

Coming from a small town in the Kootenays, UFV certainly became a home for me, as I studied for my Bachelor of Arts and, later, my Bachelor of Education. I focused my Arts degree with a major in English Literature and a minor in Visual Arts, specifically concentrated in Art History and Painting. I also made UFV a home, because of the many hours I worked as Visual Arts Equipment Assistant. This role gave me ample experience and interaction with faculty, staff, and students, and I was able to make close friends in this welcoming atmosphere. I am very thankful for the faculty, who brought me in, challenged me to think deeper, and strengthened my self-confidence as I pursued my teaching career. Owing to this experience, I felt fully prepared to start teaching with the Abbotsford School District, where I teach Visual Arts/Media Arts and English at Rick Hansen Secondary School. Challenging students with new ideas and engaging in amazing curriculum-forward projects has been wonderfully fulfilling. Not only am I appreciative and look back fondly on my time at UFV, but I was able to truly find my sense of community.


Eduardo Dioses

My time spent in the Visual Arts Dept. at UFV was the most exciting and rewarding educational experience of my life. The program was engaging, challenging, and most importantly inspiring.  The environment enabled me to have confidence in myself and my skills as an artist. For me, art began as a curiosity but has since grown into a passion. Without inhibitions, my potential felt unbounded, and UFV was the launching pad for my current career as a visual effects artist in film. 


Mallory Donen 

During my studies for my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at UFV, I focused on three areas of studio production: photography, print media, and painting. My work at UFV led me to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba. UFV is often overlooked for its Visual Arts program, but I am confident in saying that it is an excellent program. The BFA at UFV prepared me for Graduate Studies in ways I could not have imagined. The diverse range of resources, opportunities, as well as faculty and support staff who were there to push me to realize my potential, have helped develop me into the artist that I’ve become today. 


Julie Epp

Many people go into University believing that it is merely a stepping stone to a career, further education, or just something to do while they find their way in this world. I went into the BFA program at UFV thinking much the same, but after graduation, I have realized how much more education can be. The truth is that UFV has shaped my career from the moment I began my studies—giving me the inspiration to push harder and, in time, to compete for jobs I would never have dreamed of before. Now, only 10 months after graduation, I am working as a music and art instructor at a private school in Cloverdale, B.C., as well as working in museum and visual arts programming at The Reach Gallery Museum, Abbotsford. While in school I was provided with so many amazing opportunities to get involved with community programs, group art shows and publications, and I even won an Arty Award through the Abbotsford Arts Council. I honestly don’t think I would have even kept making art this long had I not been exposed to the amazing instructors and staff in the Visual Arts Department.


Janelle Fitz

I am a visual artist and graphic designer located in the Fraser Valley.  I graduated from UFV in 2014, where I obtained my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Within this program, I completed a double extended minor in visual art and graphic design. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the arts community at UFV. It was a pleasure to learn so much from my professors and fellow classmates, and build relationships with like-minded people.  During my years of study, I was exposed to many new experiences and ideas, and I often was challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone.  As a result, I grew as a person and was able to further develop and expand my skill set.  Ultimately, the experience of obtaining my fine arts degree at UFV has prepared me to pursue and succeed in post-grad opportunities.


Chris Janzen

I attended UFV with the goal of becoming a teacher but soon found myself focused on developing as an artist. I made a wide range of work, in a variety of mediums, but it was the Visual Arts instructors that shaped my path. The connections that I made at UFV led to trusting relationships where I felt challenged and excited about what I was doing. Knowing that the faculty cared about what I was making meant that I wanted to grow as an artist and learn more about who I was and what I wanted to express. More than the professional facilities in the building, the people are what helped me to become the artist and teacher that I am today. My experience as an art student was crucial in helping me realize both my interests as an art educator and an artist, knowledge I now am passing on to my students at Hope Secondary School. 


Nastasha Mol

My arts education began at the University of the Fraser Valley in 2009. Over the next five years due to the continued passion, dedication and support I received from the faculty of UFV, I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. The studio-based, theory and art historical courses provided an interdisciplinary approach to education. These courses merge technical education, conceptual knowledge, creative problem-solving skills, and critical understanding of the arts within an intimate learning environment. I received two Undergraduate Research Awards in Visual Arts as well as the 2nd place Assistant Vice President Award in Research due to the continued presence and encouragement of my professors, who truly care about the success and achievements of their students.

Upon graduation, I exhibited my artwork at multiple galleries and worked in a professional arts studio for a year and a half, after which I decided to pursue a teaching career. I applied to SFU’s Professional Development Program where I have earned a Bachelor of Education with a minor in Environmental Ed. Upon graduation in August of 2016, I will be a fully certified Secondary Visual Arts and Support teacher. It is through becoming an educator myself, I have come to appreciate the inquiry-based and student-centred education I received at UFV. After completion of my second degree, I plan to earn a Master of Arts Education to further my learning, knowledge, and professional practice in the Arts.


Jeff Rasmussen

During my time at UFV, I was on the path to becoming an art teacher... or so I thought. I was determined to achieve this goal but unaware of the great gifts I would receive while attending university. Moreover, I couldn’t know how it would alter my perspective and intended outcome. Deep down I always knew I was an artist, but I honestly had no idea what this really meant—in lifestyle or in practice. In the Visual Arts Dept. I was introduced to the broad spectrum of what contemporary art could be, and to this day I am inspired to continually create new works. Directed studies done with Chris Friesen helped hone my skills in airbrushing and put me on the path to the discovery of my current style. I still feel the support and care of VA faculty and staff each time I show works in the Fraser Valley and see familiar faces at the show. At a recent show at Surrey Art Gallery, I even had the surprise of being in the show with two UFV faculty members.  I enjoyed each course I studied while at UFV, and I suppose my only regret is not taking every art course that was possible available!


Jenessa Schier (nee Galmut)

Since I graduated in 2013 with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree I have been working for a local artist who designs features for theme parks and mini-golf courses. He also designs dimensional signage for these types of spaces environs and for other businesses. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be involved in this line of work and enjoy all of the hands-on experience I get, including painting, carving, and sculpting. It is inspiring to find that there are still people who appreciate the value of hand-crafted work.

Carving concrete and sculpting with a two-part epoxy, I am constantly reminded of how my current job is a departure from what I learned in my degree since I focused in two-dimensional practices. Yet, in so many ways, I have been prepared by UFV’s Visual Arts program—to pay attention to details, to understand desirable aesthetic values, to advise others on style and technique, and to receive similar constructive criticism myself.  I was exposed to so many different artistic mediums in the Visual Arts program and was continually challenged as I endeavoured to develop my skills in each one. Even post-grad, I am still learning new mediums and techniques and enjoy the challenge of mastering them. I am so thankful to my profs and to my fellow classmates who encouraged me to pursue my passion!


Alex Stewart

Without the challenges, training, and encouragement that I received while studying in UFV's Visual Arts Department, I believe that I would not be a practicing artist today. During my final semester, while preparing for the grad show, I was urged by my instructors to step out of my comfort zone. It is entirely because of this moment that I created my first stencil. This resulted in my discovery of a passion that has opened numerous doors—from showing throughout North America to collaborate with other artists on amazing projects. Without the training that I received in the VA dept. (and the wonderful time I spent wandering the halls of C building), I quite possibly would be spending my time behind a desk rather than discovering a better fitting, paint-covered life.


Anna Williams

The dedication and support of the instructors, along with contemporary and culturally relevant assignments, allowed me to engage meaningfully with topics that I am passionate about. When speaking to graduates of BFA programs from other universities I notice that UFV’s Visual Arts Department emphasizes the conceptual side of art-making. I have come to value this emphasis as I feel it prepared me well for work in the field of contemporary art. The quality of instruction offered by the UFV Visual Arts Department enabled me to challenge myself and excel. I graduated on the Dean’s List with an Undergraduate Research Excellence Award and the 2014 Bachelor of Fine Arts Graduate Award. The Visual Arts Department at UFV has proved to be a remarkable springboard for me; since graduation, I was invited to a Canadian Wilderness Residency in the Yukon and am employed as the Education Programmer at The Reach Gallery Museum, Abbottsford. I strongly feel that the critically challenging, learning environment of the Visual Arts Department at UFV—as well as the dedicated, creative faculty and staff—has helped to prepare me to work as an art professional. 


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