Kaysie José Comes Full Circle at CTSA

By Mia Hammett

A once-UCI undergraduate, alumna Kaysie José (B.A. '11) is particularly qualified — and wholly committed — to bolstering the creative career pursuits of UCI’s arts students.

After working in UCI’s Student Housing department, José joined the Claire Trevor School of the Arts (CTSA) part time as an Outreach Programs Coordinator in September 2015. From there, she achieved full-time status in 2016, rose to the position of manager in 2019, and has most recently earned the title of associate director of Outreach Programs for the CTSA.

In her newly acquired role, José is eager to expand the professional development and career-readiness opportunities for CTSA undergraduates.

“Many of us at the school already do this in various ways,” said José, “but our goal is to create more formal programming accessible to students of all arts majors and interests.”

José’s long-term aspiration is to create and oversee a dedicated career office in the CTSA, whose express purpose is to develop well-informed, well-prepared 21st-century professionals, both within and outside of the creative sectors.

As an undergraduate who hadn’t declared a drama major until her third year, José believed she didn’t sufficiently take advantage of all her school had to offer. But having returned to the CTSA as a professional, her disappointment has been replaced by sincere gratitude and admiration for her work — and the students who define it.

“Not only do I get to be in service to our amazing arts students and community, but I have a direct impact in molding an environment and creating opportunities that I did not get to have or were not available to me,” she said.

Building Bridges

José wholeheartedly believes in the transformative power of education. Having moved to the United States as a child, whose parents uprooted their lives for her educational future, José can attest to the deep intrinsic value of education.

“I immigrated here from the Philippines because my parents wanted to afford their children better educational opportunities.” While optimistic about education as a tool to carve out desired futures, José also recognizes the combined structural and systemic factors continuing to work against those in pursuit of higher education.

“I firmly believe that higher education is for everyone and anyone who wants to pursue it — and we, as educational institutions, still have lots of work to do in eliminating barriers to this pursuit. As a higher education professional, I am committed to embodying this idea in all the work I do,” she says.

In her current role, José runs the CTSA’s Creative Connections program, which provides yearlong funding for UCI arts students interested in earning practical teaching experience developing arts-based curriculum and projects for K-12. She also managed the CTSA’s Summer Academies in the Arts program—2- to 3-week summer college and career preparatory intensives that provide dance, art, drama and music lessons to advanced high school- and college-aged students. She believes that her emerging work in leading the program introduced her to a spectrum of student experiences that resulted in a keener interest in career counseling.

After earning her Masters in College Counseling and Student Development from Azusa Pacific University in 2020, José realized that adapting the Creative Connections internship program was a sensible intersection of her professional interests and a natural progression of her career development within the CTSA. Her work in the CTSA affords her the potential to uniquely and fundamentally shape the futures of individual arts students.

“Whether that’s getting them on our campus for a free show or having them participate in a workshop, we take a student’s interest or involvement in the arts and use it as a catalyst to expose them to this environment, to have them recognize that higher education is a viable option and that they do belong in a place like this.” For José, it’s about moving and working towards vast career potential—helping students forge generative, career-spanning experiences and connections that lead them beyond a fixed path.

“I’m always in awe of our students,” said José. She is deeply moved by the experiential depth and scope of the students she works with and describes them with refreshingly impassioned optimism. “Being able to work alongside and support our students truly affirms what I do, why I show up, and what has kept me at UCI for the last 10 years.”

Image (top): Kaysie José (bottom left) on the last day of Creative Connections training in the fall 2021. Creative Connections interns each received their favorite snack as a parting gift.
Image (below): José at graduation in 2011 with Dean Emeritus Stephen Barker.

For UCI Alumni resources, visit engage.alumni.uci.edu

Are you an Arts Alum? Learn ways to stay connected at www.arts.uci.edu/alumni. Questions or stories? Contact artsalumni@uci.edu.

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CONNECT - Spring 2023

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