Commencement Feature: Leveling up | Christian Ruiz

L – R: Alex Baker, Celine Habimana, Christian Ruiz, Amanda Allee

You may not recognize Christian Ruiz at first glance, but you’ve definitely seen him around campus – at least in uniform. The Game Design and Development grad has served as Clyde, the mascot, for the past two years, enthusiastically representing the Mountain Lion community at all types of events.

“I originally signed up for the job for fun, but I also enjoyed the responsibility,” said Christian. “I believe that by being Clyde, I’m representing UCCS as a whole, so I was very mindful in thinking about how Clyde should act and present himself in different situations.”

“Many times, especially in the early days, people were surprised to find that the Clyde Program was pretty much just me,” he added. “I handled the requests for events, maintained the costume, cleaned it, carried it to and from storage, and used my own car to get to events.”

Christian is preparing to pass the mascot torch with his upcoming graduation from the College of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS), where he’ll also be acting as a commencement speaker.

“Surprisingly, I’m not nervous right now, though I may be in the moment,” Christian laughed. “I’m looking forward to commencement and sharing my speech. Stage fright is kind of out the window at this point, especially because I’ve been doing improv since last semester.”

Though improv is a newer hobby for Christian, it’s quickly become one of his favorites.

“It’s been really fun to do the performances and rehearsals with the troupe, and I’ve met a lot of new friends through it,” he said.

Another passion of Christian’s is game design, in which he’s been able to dabble both in and out of his classes. He helped develop Penguin Noir, a student-led video game, under the guidance of his professor and mentor Dana Wortman, Ph.D.

“Dr. Wortman taught several of my classes and she’s always been focused on how to get a career or how to use the skills we’re learning in game design,” he said. “That really helps me get engaged. Beyond that, she was always really helpful with coursework and has her students’ backs.”

“We made Penguin Noir over the course of three semesters,” he added. “That in general was really stressful, but I also took a lot of pride in it.”

This love for games and game design has been lifelong for Christian, and there was no question for him on what to study in school.

“I’ve always felt like there’s no way I can do anything other than game design,” he shared. “To me, it’s the highest art form and I’m really passionate about it. The way that people express themselves and their experiences and their ideas through games has always interested me.”

With Christian’s certainty on pursuing game design, his university options were narrowed down to schools offering such a program. This pointed him in the direction of UCCS, and visiting made up his mind.

“Game design is a pretty new field, and I knew I wanted to stay in Colorado,” he said. “I liked the laid-back atmosphere of UCCS, as well as the campus, and felt very comfortable just walking around it.”

That comfortability continued once Christian starting attending classes and getting to know the classmates that would become his friends.

“I’m going to miss the game design classes themselves and the friendships I built in them,” said Christian. “You tend to go through them with the same group of people, and though they were educational, they also asked questions around gaming and allowed us to talk about video games. Going to those classes was always really fun. They came with a lot of work, but were always very engaging and everyone seemed to care a lot about the class.”

Now that his time at school is coming to an end, Christian’s looking forward to embarking on the next step of his game design career.

“The ultimate goal is to have my own studio when I’m a senior developer, maybe five to ten years from now,” said Christian. “Starting out, I’m aiming for a producer role, similar to a project manager, where I’d be setting the pace for development, solving problems and improving communication, things like that.”

After reflecting on his time at UCCS and the interests he explored during, he urged fellow students to take chances and to do the things that intimidate you.

“Do the things that interest you, but also scare you,” he said. “I was pretty scared of doing actual live improv. I’d taken an improv class a long time ago, but going in front of an audience and possibly being heckled was terrifying, you know? But I gave it a shot and it’s not as scary as now, and I found that group of friends.”

“Find something that tangentially interests you, or maybe it’s just a hobby, but find a club that’s related to it, and go check it out and it start the conversation.”

About the UCCS College of Engineering and Applied Science

The College of Engineering and Applied Science enrolls more than 1,700 students and offers 23 engineering and computer science degrees, ranging from bachelor to doctoral. The college is a Department of Homeland Security / National Security Agency Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense and works closely with the National Cybersecurity Center and with more than 250 aerospace and defense, information technology, cybersecurity and engineering organizations in the Pikes Peak region. Learn more about the College of Engineering and Applied Science at UCCS.