In retrospect, Clifton Jones sees his initial attempt at a UVA education as a false start. Science and math always came naturally to him, and he decided on the basis of his reading that biomedical engineering would be a good career path for him. Although he was thrilled to be accepted by UVA’s rigorous Engineering School, the excitement soon faded. He felt constrained by limited opportunities to take electives in the liberal arts, and he ultimately concluded that biomedical engineering, though absorbing in theory, was simply not for him. After sticking with it as long as he could, he left the University in his third year.
“I was too young to really know what I wanted,” Jones recalls. “It was only by going back into the workforce and becoming a professional and a manager that I was able to experience what worked for me.”
Now, as a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies
student, Jones is back on track to receive his UVA degree. “BIS has given me the opportunity to make my education more closely match what I want to do in life,” he says.
After leaving UVA, Jones soon found a home in the creative arts. He became involved in HANDS on the FUTURE, a Washington, DC, nonprofit that trains young people in theater, television, motion picture, audio, and radio production. A talented musician himself, Jones soon found himself teaching students practical skills they would need to find employment in the recording industry. He managed the organization’s recording studio and was the program’s lead engineer. “I loved it,” he says. “I was producing music every day in a state-of-the art studio. Every day was a new challenge.”
Jones has subsequently branched out to videography and web design. He is now an audiovisual specialist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, where he has the satisfaction of seeing his work picked up by different news organizations. “I’m in a managerial position now,” he says. “A degree would provide a foundation for advancing in my career.”
This time around, Jones is finding the UVA experience rewarding. He particularly had praise for the film classes he took from Professor Robert Kolker. “These are the types of classes I would loved to have taken when I was an undergraduate,” he says. “Dr. Kolker was awesome.”