Meet Laura Young

Laura Young headshotLaura Young
Director of Enrollment Management, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture
Co-leader of NACAC’s Visual Arts SIG

What drew you to the world of college admission? 
I majored in fine art at UCLA and when I was a sophomore my academic counselor signed me up to work the phone banks for admitted students, "because you like talking to everybody." I dutifully showed up because my counselor also told me there would be food, but then I met the recruitment staff and found out there was a job where you get to travel and talk to students about studying the arts in college. I graduated in 2003 and my first job was in museum education, but I kept volunteering for the UCLA arts recruitment office and in 2004 was hired full time. In 2011, I became the director of enrollment management, so I have spent my entire professional career at UCLA. They will probably have to pry me out of here with a crowbar. 

What is your favorite part of the job?
Working at a high-profile public flagship university is a welcome challenge; the responsibility to provide educational access to the people of my home state is meaningful to me. I also love working with artists; our departments are very close-knit and many of the faculty and staff who taught and supported me are still here. Artists are my family. 

How did you get involved with the Visual Arts SIG?
My professional development niche is how visual and performing arts students are served within higher education, and subsequently how they transition into the marketplace upon graduation. My trusted colleagues Amy Goldin and Barbara Rapaport had just set up the Performing Arts SIG and needed the visual arts counterpart, so I stepped in with my co-chair Jean Hester, who is the vice president of enrollment management at the Columbus College of Art & Design (OH).

Why is this SIG important to you?
I grew up surrounded by working artists, and I made my way through grade and high school drawing, painting, acting, and playing the piano, but I still thought that making and doing art was an activity that had no practical or sensible application in The Real World. An internship I had in the summer between high school and college changed everything: I worked under Peggy van Pelt, head of talent development at Walt Disney Imagineering. She was the one who helped me see that the habits and skills I'd been cultivating through the arts were valuable life skills: curiosity, critical thinking, reflective analysis, being comfortable with the unexpected. I figure if I, with all of the support and advantages in the world, could still feel baffled and rudderless when imagining a career and life in the arts, how would it be for a young person who didn't have someone to affirm their gifts? There is an incredible amount of misinformation out there about arts degrees and careers, and I want NACAC members to feel confident in stewarding young creatives. I am trying to do for students and my colleagues what Peggy did for me. 

Why should counselors and admission professionals get involved with a NACAC SIG?
SIGs are made up of your colleagues with deep expertise in certain student populations, so belonging to a SIG provides the opportunity to diversify your knowledge if you don’t have the chance work directly with those populations. I’ve got my head in the arts, which means I deal with a fairly privileged group, and the discussions and research happening in the SIGs ensure that I stay in touch with reality and maintain intersectional viewpoints.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
My grade school principal had a poster above her desk: "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." I have that poster in my office now, as a reminder that there are powerful forces in the world that want a deprived, desperate, and easily controlled populace, and that we all need to speak truth to power. 

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I have a spouse and two small children, a 4-year-old boy and 9-month-old girl, so I’m flexing my maternal executive function muscles at home as well as at the office. Our families are local so we spend a lot of time with them—lots of parks, nature walks, and trips to the farmer's market. My son is obsessed with dinosaurs and draws them all day, and when I was his age I too was obsessed with dinosaurs and drawing so you can imagine all of the kvelling going on around here. 

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Somewhere in between Imperator Furiosa and The Dude. No gods, no masters. 

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