The UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies Dare. Dream. Do. campaign showcases individuals who have achieved—or are working toward—personal and professional goals through DES programs and certificates. It highlights the built-in breadth, variety and scope of the division’s programs by featuring students and alums who dare to dream and do. This profile is the second in an ongoing series.
Meet Magdalena Esparza
, a biochemist from Chile turned children’s book illustrator thanks to UC San Diego’s Children’s Book Illustration program
. Esparza’s story is inspiring in more ways than one. She and her husband moved from their hometown in Chile with a work visa after she accepted a job offer as a biochemist at the University of Texas in 2014 and then at Texas Children’s Hospital. It was while working at the children’s hospital that she began to explore her artistic side as a hobby and gradually delved deeper into the arts until becoming a freelance artist.
Eventually, Esparza sought out opportunities to showcase her art and participated in many community festivals and events. Her art beautified playgrounds and electrical street boxes across Houston. In 2021, she finally decided to focus exclusively on her newfound passion and began to research educational programs that would support her new career goals. She landed on UC San Diego’s Children’s Book Illustration program.
“I chose UC San Diego because their professional certificate in Children’s Book Illustration covers a range of topics, such as visual storytelling, character design, and composition, and is taught by experienced professionals in the field,” Esparza explained. “This program also offers great online classes and a variety of content in each class. Every class helps you to be involved in the children's book world,” she added.
Esparza especially benefited from the opportunity to receive an education through online classes. During her studies, she became pregnant. Being able to continue with her new career path while working full-time and pregnant without interruption is one of her highlights as a student in the certification program. “The learning platform is organized in a way that allows you to take the class from anywhere,” she said. Additionally, she was surprised by the amount of interaction and feedback offered by the instructor and other students which helped guide students’ work.
“The program is designed to help students fully immerse themselves in the world of children’s books and illustrations. Each class provides valuable insights and practical skills that are relevant to the field. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced illustrator, this program can help enhance your skills and advance your career,” Esparza shared.
Esparza added that one of her favorite classes was History of Children’s Literature, which provided a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of children’s literature, including the various styles, themes, and genres. “I found it fascinating to explore how children’s literature has evolved over time, and how it reflects changing societal attitudes and values.”
The Children’s Book Illustration certificate program gave way for Esparza to pursue a new career as a children’s book writer and illustrator. She had always enjoyed art but never truly considered it as a career. Having studied and worked so diligently as a biochemist, art might seem more like a hobby than a profession. But Esparza has found she can merge her passions by bridging science and art into children’s literature. Through the Children’s Book Illustration program classes, homework, and virtual interaction combined, Esparza completed her first book while still studying online. She looks forward to having it published later this year.
Since completing the certificate program, Esparza has become a full-time artist and even has her own studio. She continues to work on different projects that involve public art.
“The program helped me to feel confident about my art, my illustration, and my creative process. They helped me improve my illustration skills,” she said. “The program was a key factor in advancing my career and allowing me to pursue my passion for creating art that inspires and engages children. I’m grateful for the skills and knowledge I gained from the program, and for the positive impact it has had on my professional and personal life,” she said.
The program allowed Esparza to fully immerse herself in the world of children’s books, drawing inspiration from her love for art and her new role as a soon-to-be mother. She looks forward to returning to UC San Diego’s Children’s Book Illustration program for an arts and creativity course. She highly recommends the program to prospective students.
“The Children’s Book Illustration program is well-structured, informative, and provides a great platform for learning new skills and knowledge essential to success in this field. The online classes are convenient and can be easily integrated into a busy schedule,” Esparza said. “Plus, I found the program to be reasonably priced, making it even more accessible to a wide range of people. Anyone who is passionate about creating engaging and effective illustrations for children’s books would benefit greatly from this program.”
If you are a high-achieving university student or professional interested in taking a full-time schedule of credit-bearing classes at UC San Diego or UC San Diego Division of Extended Studies while studying alongside aspiring illustrators, the Children’s Book Illustration program might be right for you. Visit the Children’s Book Illustration webpage
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