Student pairs with former vice principal to illustrate children's book

<p>Graduate student Kelly Hopkins illustrates children's books as a side job. Hopkins teamed up with her former&nbsp;high school vice principal,&nbsp;Jacquelyn Thomas-Miller, to write and illustrate their first picture book,&nbsp;“Coloring Outside the Lines.” <em>Kelly Hopkins // Photo Provided</em></p>

Graduate student Kelly Hopkins illustrates children's books as a side job. Hopkins teamed up with her former high school vice principal, Jacquelyn Thomas-Miller, to write and illustrate their first picture book, “Coloring Outside the Lines.” Kelly Hopkins // Photo Provided

What is the M.A. in Emerging Media Design and Development?

The new Ball State graduate program emphasizes multimedia storytelling across digital platforms. Emphasized skills include design thinking, digital content development and interaction design, among others. Learn more about the program and applying at and the EMDD Ball State page

Some students have part-time jobs waiting tables, shelving books or filing papers. For graduate student Kelly Hopkins, a side job means creating illustrations for a children’s book. 

Hopkins is a graduate student in the Center for Emerging Media Design and Development program. After posting on Facebook in Summer 2016 about her graduate assistantship and work as the graphic designer for the women’s basketball team, she received a new message. It was from Jacquelyn Thomas-Miller, her former high school vice principal.

“She saw that post and messaged me saying, ‘Call me! Call me! I need to talk to you about something,’” Hopkins said.

Thomas-Miller told Hopkins she was writing children’s books, and wanted to know if she would consider illustrating them. Hopkins had never illustrated a book before, but Thomas-Miller encouraged her to give it a shot.

Many months of work, illustrating and learning later, the duo’s first picture book, “Coloring Outside the Lines,” is available on Kindle and Amazon.

The main character of “Coloring Outside the Lines” is based on Thomas-Miller’s granddaughter. She plans to write more books centered around the same character, and Hopkins will continue to illustrate them.

“I love children’s books. I could sit in Books-A-Million and look at the illustrations all day," she said. “I think it will be something I do on the side with whatever I do for my career.”

Hopkins illustrated the book during the Fall 2016 semester, aiming to finish a page a week. She used Adobe Illustrator to create the pages.

Balancing the work with her classes and jobs was challenging, but worth it.

“It was definitely a learning experience for both of us, because there were certain things we didn’t know we had to do. It was very fun though, and we worked very well together,” she said. “We learned a lot, so we’re going to continue to do more.”

Jennifer Palilonis has taught Hopkins design during both her undergraduate and graduate programs. Palilonis knew her from not only the design program, but also through her husband, who coached Hopkins during her four years on the Ball State women’s volleyball team.

“Kelly is a great illustrator and a strong visual storyteller,” she said. “Her work in both undergraduate and graduate programs helped lay the foundation for the work she has done to illustrate a new children’s book.”

Palilonis said Hopkins is a member of the Professor Garfield team in the Center for Emerging Media Design and Development, allowing her to work with Jim Davis and other students to develop digital literacy curriculum for children K-3.

When the program launches in a year, Hopkins “will be able to say that she’s part of a talented team of students who helped shape the way digital literacy is taught on a national level,” Palilonis said.

After getting her undergraduate degree from Ball State, Hopkins still had one more year of eligibility left for the volleyball team. At the same time, the EMDD program was approved, and the stars seemed to align. She played one more year of volleyball and enrolled in the program, from which she will graduate this spring.

“I’ve loved all my time here,” Hopkins said. “Everything worked out perfectly.”

As she looks to the future, Hopkins’ big dream is to publish the magazine she designed for a class during her undergraduate degree about tall women. For now, she hopes to build her portfolio after graduation and eventually find a design job in Chicago.

Hopkins and Thomas-Miller will be hosting a book signing in the coming weeks in Kokomo as a part of Pizza Hut’s Book It literacy program. The book can be purchased here


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