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Justine Bateman Designs Her
Own Major


Published Jan 17, 2014 8:00 AM

Enrolling as a freshman at 46, the actress wanted to create new ways to interact with digital media.


Photo by Rebecca Kendall

Returning to school after decades away can be daunting, but actress, television writer and digital-media producer Justine Bateman proves that it’s never too late.

In fall 2012, Bateman, who starred in NBC’s hit show Family Ties 30 years ago, became one of the oldest UCLA freshmen ever enrolled. Now she’s a second-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in digital media management and computer science.

Her decision to return to school exemplifies how Bateman breaks boundaries and explores new territory. Here she has designed her own independent degree program and is working to create new ways in which people can interact with digital media.


Bateman makes her way up Bruin Walk
Photo by Rebecca Kendall

"Justine is one of the most terrifyingly motivated students I’ve ever had," says UCLA English professor Michael Colacurcio, who is marking his 50th year in the classroom.

"When I was accepted [to UCLA], I was thrilled," says Bateman, who has been nominated for Golden Globe Awards and Emmys. She also has been CEO and designer of her own fashion brand; a writer, producer, director and partner at an Internet content production company; and head of her own digital media production and consulting firm.

With a major that blends core computer science courses with classes in economics, business management, technology and public policy, she intends to identify new and improved ways for people to enjoy and interact with online entertainment.

"I have all these ideas for projects," she says, "and it’s really great to understand the technology that’s necessary to make them happen. With this major, I’m exactly where I need to be."

She adds that she has connections in the advertising and production world, with writers, and now with her classmates. "I have a fantastic selection of software and hardware engineers to help on projects now."

Bateman first applied to college on the East Coast when she was 17. But her contract with Paramount Studios prohibited her from going that far away.

Now, at the requests of friends and acquaintances, Bateman has started a blog, Get A College Life, where she shares her personal reflections and experiences and highlights the stories of nearly two dozen Smarty Pants Women from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, who have hit the books in pursuit of postsecondary degrees later in life.

"Sometimes you have to overcome scheduling challenges, family responsibilities, financial and social challenges to do this, so I thought it would be nice to air some of the stories these women have," says Bateman, a mother of two children, ages 10 and 11. "Some of these stories are kind of intense. It’s a big deal for anyone to do anything that everyone else around you is not doing at the time. Sometimes you feel alone, but it’s important to know that you’re not and that you can be successful."

This story is based on an article in UCLA Today. To view the original full-length article, visit



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