CCAD student finds a blessing in scholarship support

kaycee nwakudu

As the youngest of fourand one who already held one bachelor’s degree, in engineeringKelechukwu (Kaycee) Nwakudu (Animation, 2020) understood that funding a second degree was beyond his parents’ means. 

Nwakudu had graduated from Covenant University in Ota, Nigeria, at age 20 with a degree in mechanical engineering. “That was entirely out of pocket,” he says of his first degree. “That came out of my parents’ pockets. That was tough for them. I have endless appreciation for my parents.”

Shortly graduating from Covenant, Nwakudu and his family relocated to Chicago, and not long after that, he decided to apply to Columbus College of Art & Design

“My parents were like, ‘Four more years in college? You’ve already spent five years in college,’” he says. And while they had seen his interest and skills when it came to visual art, his parents were concerned about the practicalities of such a degree. But Nwakudu convinced his parents of its valueand knew this time, he would shoulder the financial burden alone. 

So the financial aid package he received from CCAD was “very helpful,” he says. “It took a lot of the load off of my chest.”

Nwakudu has been busy since starting at CCAD. His second semester, he took a job in CCAD’s Continuing & Professional Studies department, work he has continued ever since. His job there as an assistant in an oil painting class for adults has not only given him an income, it’s also connected him with a creative mentor in teacher and artist Bryan Christopher Moss, who taught CPS classes.

In addition to his time in the classroom pursuing his own studies and helping adults grow their creative practices, Nwakudu works as an animator in the CCAD Student Agency. “I appreciate that it’s a space where there are different disciplines in the same room, and you can ask questions of anyone. I like that environment. It builds you up, and the teamwork is very useful,” he says.

And because the CCAD Student Agency works with real-world internal and external clients, it presents an opportunity to get a feel for the professional arena. “You learn how to manage client projects, how to handle brand guidelines. It’s definitely a practical work experience,” says Nwakudu, who hopes to work as an independent animator after graduation.

That’s not all that fills Nwakudu’s calendar. He’s also a barback at an establishment in Columbus’ Short North neighborhood, where he works on the weekends. “Between all of that, there’s not a lot of time for myself,” he says. Still, he works to maintain his equilibrium with sleep, walks, and hydration. “Naps are really important. … It helps my mental health to take some time off.”

Despite holding several jobs, Nwakudu found himself coming up short in funding his education at the start of his senior year. So he returned to CCAD’s Admissions and Financial Aid departments for aid. They pointed to him to resources and information he needed to apply for support and he was ultimately awarded the Aminah Robinson Endowed Scholarship.

Nwakudu calls the scholarship, named for the artist and onetime CCAD student, “a blessing.” Moss, who has become a close friend, was himself mentored by Robinson before her 2015 death and later worked for Columbus Museum of Art to archive her works. “It was as if she blessed me with it, thanks to her relationship to Bryan and my relationship to him,” Nwakudu says. “I feel very privileged to have received that award.”

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