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Energy was buzzing through the crowd at the CSU Northridge graduation as students in black gowns with red and black sashes walked the stage to accept their diplomas and cross the threshold to becoming graduates. One of those students, with his identifiable gait, long straight hair, and dark mirrored aviators stomped the walk down with confidence, accepting his diploma and high-fiving the college president before returning to his place in the sea of Northridge grads. Alexander Rock officially had done it—after nine years, two colleges, and a number of career pivots, he had his Bachelor’s degree.

Back in 2013, he had been living the dream: making connections, building his portfolio, and creating a name for himself as a freelance designer in public K–12, Tech, and Entertainment. The only thing he was missing was stability. As much as his clients liked his work, he couldn’t cash the connections in for a full-time gig. For his field, that would require a degree, and that meant going back to school. With this in mind, he applied to Ventura College (VC) and signed up for classes in the art program.

It was just supposed to be a quick process. An Associate degree would take two years if he signed up for 15 units per term. If he pushed through and got it done, he’d be back in LA freelancing for Hollywood or perhaps moving up north to Silicon Valley. There was something about those classes that made him feel like he was in the right place—the information helped him to shape his style, his voice. As he progressed in the program, his professors pointed him in new directions too. Art led to Art History led to History. In particular, Dr. Michael Ward was an inspiration as his classes taught history through the perspective of an artist and illustrator. Soon, Alexander Rock’s goal was no longer to get the degree and get out but instead to be a scholar and learn everything he could.

While studying, Alexander Rock continued his freelance work, but the more he worked to improve his craft, the more he wanted to use it to help his new community.  When he was asked to help with the marketing of the annual History Symposium between the VC History Department and the Museum of Ventura County, he jumped at the chance. The effort that went into designing the posters would be an outpouring of love, and the product would display his new skills. It also was soon to become a surprisingly pivotal project in his career.

The Dean of Art and Social Sciences reached out. She had seen the posters; they were exactly what she was looking for. She was looking for a student worker, and she wanted Alexander Rock to join her team. This opportunity soon turned into being hired as a part-time graphic designer. Over the years, he continued to learn, take classes, and grow his artistic sensibility while continuing to promote and shift his work. From graphic designer, he moved to Evening/Weekend Activities Attendant and then to Distance Education Student Support Specialist.

At the same time as he grew his career in a variety of directions, he graduated from VC and transferred to CSU Northridge. At times, he struggled with time management, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when all his classes were remote, but the fun of learning and the inspiring advice of his professors helped him to push forward and create new habits that got him through.

Today, Alexander Rock holds six degrees: Associate degrees in Art, History, Art History, and Arts & Humanities, and Bachelor’s degrees in Communication Design—Art and History. In his role as Marketing, Communications, and Web Design Coordinator for the District, he uses the skills and lessons learned from each of his degrees, even where it is least expected. With each consultation and each training, he pays forward the inspiration and guidance his mentors gave to him. As he designs new pages and supports departments in re-envisioning how to show who they are, he uses his artistic eye and unique perspective. Alexander Rock once sought a degree as a means to an end, but now he is truly designing his future.

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