Student Voices

Chelar Vale

Chelar Vale
Chelar Vale
Actor, writer, and executive assistant
Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in Creative Studies, University of Pennsylvania '22

Chelar Vale (Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences `22) knew she wanted to pursue her bachelor’s degree when she took her son to his college orientation. “I was on that journey with him thinking, ‘I want to be a student again!’” recalls Chelar, who had completed 2 years of college after high school but then shifted focus to her career in the entertainment industry. “It inspired me to go back and get my bachelor’s degree.” After she completed an associate degree in communications—and was accepted to every four-year program she applied to—Chelar was awarded a Bread Upon the Waters scholarship and transferred into the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences at Penn.

At Penn LPS Online, Chelar pursued a concentration in Creative Studies, which allowed her to build on her communications studies while continuing to cultivate her artistic side. “Here in LA, I look to have a creative job and need to have a ‘regular job.’ I have a resume for work and a resume for acting,” she explains. “My degree at Penn is helping bring those two worlds together instead of having to choose one or the other, which I’m thrilled about.”  In addition to her career as an actor and producer, Chelar has professional experience in challenging operational and administrative roles for architectural and investment banking companies. “I’ve always helped other people manage their professional careers,” she adds. “Now I’m focusing that work ethic on a professional career of my own.”

In creative writing and literature courses, Chelar developed her powers of storytelling, discovered an unexpected love for poetry, and worked on a project she had always wanted to pursue—writing the first 35 pages of a screenplay. “In LA, where talented writers are everywhere paid for their work, I’ve always felt inadequate referring to myself as a writer,” Chelar admits. “The support I’ve received in my Creative Studies concentration has changed this perception of myself and given me confidence that’s resulted in writing I’m very proud of.” She also took professional writing courses, in which she valued the instructors’ encouragement and availability—especially in courses that challenged her expectations. “I thought, ‘As an avid social media user, this should be an easy class,’” Chelar comments on taking PROW 4000: Writing for Social Media. “It was more difficult than I’d anticipated. There are technical aspects when writing for social media, and with businesses valuing their social media presence, I wanted to acclimate myself in a professional way, so I’m thankful I took that class.”

Pursuing her bachelor’s degree online allowed Chelar, who lives in Los Angeles, to connect with students and instructors from all over the world. “I prefer Zoom classes over sitting in a classroom, because we’re all looking right at each other,” she says. “You can’t be on your phone or focusing on something else. It’s very engaging, and you can get so much out of it.” Even so, Chelar wanted to experience a little more of life on Penn’s campus—a taste of the college experience she saw her son enjoying. So, she scheduled travel to visit Philadelphia and meet some of the faculty, sitting down to coffee with her creative writing instructors and making an appointment to visit Penn Libraries with her literature professor. “I met so many amazing people and held in my hands historic documents we studied in class,” recalls Chelar. “Penn is such an inclusive community, and I think that's a beautiful aspect of this program.”

With her Ivy League bachelor’s degree almost in hand, Chelar is considering a master’s degree in communications as her next educational journey—although she hasn’t chosen where. “I really don’t want to leave Penn,” she laughs. “I know that once I'm an alumna, I'm part of the community. But it's different when you're an actual student, especially when you visit campus, and you see the architecture and go into all of these buildings as a student.” In the meantime, she is looking forward to returning to Philadelphia to walk in the graduation ceremony. “I think it’s important! Graduation is a celebration of all the work that you did,” says Chelar. “Some of my first questions when I was inquiring at all these universities were: Will I get to take part in graduation? Will the degree be just as if I were a traditional student? Because that's important to me.”

“It’s been a completely different experience returning to college for me. Having learned and evolved through the years, my comprehension of the curriculum is much more profound than when I was young,” concludes Chelar. “I think many adults might be afraid of being so far removed from the young student they once were but being a student has nothing to do with age. We’re no different than the exceptional young kids entering college immediately after high school. And I’ve learned it’s never too late to take that leap and go after something you have passion for. The journey is so worth it.”

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