Jessica Tawczynski has always loved art. As a kid, she filled sketchpads drawing at the Worcester Art Museum and always felt drawn to creativity. But sticking with art as an adult and making it her career didn't seem possible until she came to UMass Lowell.
“I didn't know that painting was a career option before I got here, but the classes and professors opened my eyes to the possibilities on the very first day,” says Tawczynski, who wants other creative students to know that following their passion is an option, even a calling. “If you think you know what you're meant to do, do it. If you find what is going to make you happy, do it no matter the obstacles or what other people say. It will be worth it.” 
Tawczynski made her time on and off campus more than worth it. Traveling to Israel on an art exchange, bringing things from her science classes into her paintings, and earning the first UMass Lowell Painting Award and Scholarship are opportunities Tawczynski’s not sure she would have had at a large traditional art school.
“A department doesn't have to be big to be powerful. We have different materials, international partnerships and collaborations across departments that expose art students to new ideas,” says Tawczynski, who has also connected with local artists and shown her work in several galleries. “They've all helped me to get new perspectives and open up my process.”
These experiences have made her ready for the next step as a professional artist.
“I've been able to build a good studio practice, portfolio and community relations skills while in school. It already feels like I'm a working artist.”