Originally created 09/29/03

College adds 5 new majors



SAVANNAH, Ga. - When students began the fall quarter at Savannah College of Art and Design last week, they discovered five new majors, four freshly renovated buildings and an inaugural e-learning program.

All five majors have been added within the School of Film and Digital Media, which officially opened in 2002 and is home to some of the college's fastest-growing programs.

The computer art program has nearly doubled its enrollment since 2000, prompting the addition of majors in animation, broadcast design, interactive design/game development, visual effects and sound design.

"The new majors will take computer art students and give them a stronger computer art foundation," said Eric Ruggiero, the chairman of the college's new broadcast design department.

The college's expanding computer art program is part of a larger national trend in art education.

"Computer art is booming nationwide," said Cindy Wallace, an assistant professor of art at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.

Ms. Wallace explains that higher starting salaries are part of the draw for college students. She estimates that a recent college graduate with a degree in a computer art field can easily earn $45,000 or more in a city such as Atlanta or New York.

"It's a very competitive job market," she said. "But the pay level is so high, particularly compared to many other art-related fields."

Many graduates have found that computer art majors have led to jobs with top companies.

Laurence Plotkin, the director of human resources and recruitment at Digital Domain, a Los Angeles visual-effects company, said he has hired a number of the school's digital media graduates over the past several years.

"When Digital Domain is gearing up for a large project, we look to graduates of SCAD as our ideal entry-level candidates," he said. "Generally, the top students graduate production-ready and possess strong artistic, technical and problem-solving skills."

Four new buildings will provide additional space for classrooms, artist studios and administrative offices, helping the college meet the needs of more than 6,000 students and more than 1,000 faculty and staff.

They include a former correctional facility that has been converted into student housing, called Gordon Hall, and a one-time warehouse that has found new life as the Gulfstream Center for Industrial and Furniture Design.

The new e-learning program provides online education to students seeking a professional certificate or a master's degree.

The program, which features the nation's only online master of arts degree in historic preservation, offers the opportunity to earn a certificate in digital publishing; a graduate certificate in digital publishing management; a graduate certificate in historic preservation; or a graduate certificate in interactive design.

An master of arts in graphic design also is available.

"Only 20 percent of SCAD students come from Georgia," said Pamela Poetter, the vice president for admission and communications. "So with 80 percent outside the state and 10 percent of the total student body from outside the U.S., the need is there to deliver course content online."

Students taking online courses have clearly defined starting and ending dates but are able to complete their course work according to their own schedules.

Online courses are being offered in art history, film and television, foundation studies, general education, graphic design, historic preservation, illustration, interactive design and photography.

"We plan to develop more and more online materials and courses," Ms. Poetter said, "adding new areas not currently offered by traditional courses."

"Only 20 percent of SCAD students come from Georgia. So with 80 percent outside the state and 10 percent of the total student body from outside the U.S., the need is there to deliver course content online."

- Pamela Poetter, Savannah College of Art and Design's vice president for admission and communications