Alumni Profile: Kelly Thomas

Kelly Thomas admits that doing digital design work for clients can be a challenge, but she appreciates the opportunity to be creative every day.

Thomas, a 2015 graduate of Henderson State University with a degree in digital art and design, is a graphic designer for Ascend Marketing in Austin, Texas.

“I primarily do pharma work for a client in New York that specializes in neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and M.S.,” she said. “I moved back to Austin immediately after I graduated. It took me a few months, but I got a job at an agency doing social media work for clients. I switched to Ascend with a pharma focus about nine months ago.

“I plan to continue developing my design skills and eventually become an art director.”

Thomas is originally from Austin, but moved to Hot Springs and graduated from Hot Springs High School. She discovered her creativity in middle and high school and was drawn to theater and music (guitar), but began leaning towards visual arts when she was a sophomore.

“I wanted a creative career, but I knew I should go a practical route,” Thomas said. “When I was 15, I took a digital art class and was introduced to the Adobe design programs. After that, I was taking as many digital classes as I could.

“Towards the end of high school, I knew I wanted to study graphic design. The choice was pretty easy for me.”

When it came time to choose a college, Thomas wanted to stay close to home.

“I met the art faculty at Henderson and got some great scholarships,” she said. “I knew Henderson would be a great place for learning and creative growth.”

Thomas was involved in the Art Club and wrote comics for the campus newspaper, The Oracle.

Her degree was “pivotal,” Thomas said.

“While it is possible to get into graphic design with a portfolio alone, it’s more difficult,” she said. “Getting that formal training is critical. Having professors mold and guide you is critical.

“I’ve had great success in creative agencies since graduation. I would say it’s 50 percent diligence and exploring as many things as you can, and 50 percent your professors guiding you in a productive exploration.”

Thomas said there were times when she thought about transferring to a “sexier” art school.

“Every time I entertained that thought, I found that something kept me at Henderson,” she said. “With the crazy cost of an education these days, you really can’t argue against choosing Henderson’s art program.

“Cost aside, you can’t find another university that provides the one-on-one communication and help you get from your professors. At Henderson, the professors are all friends and they all care deeply about the students and getting them on the best path possible.”

Thomas said Henderson “allows students to build the confidence in themselves to go out and make it as an artist.”

• This alumni feature is part of an ongoing project featuring Henderson's outstanding undergraduate and graduate academic programs.