This month President Obama proposed community college be free for all Americans in preparation for the needs and demands of the 21st Century. Prior to this Tom Hanks wrote a great article in the New York TImes about how he discovered acting while attending a FREE community college.
My idea of building a program that can prepare students for employment in the Digital Graphics Arts field can best be described as a redefinition and recreation of a community. Currently the primary motivation toward attending a community college has been for its financial advantage and the chance to prepare for the demands of a 4-year university if a student plans on transferring. Scheduling is flexible and students have the opportunity to explore major options without incurring a high cost and many accomplished professors teach part-time while pursuing advanced degrees or career goals. However, we often find that the cons to community colleges can be the problems that create the greatest challenges for an institution to thrive. These challenges are limited curriculum, lighter workload, outdated technology (or lack thereof) and poor student involvement. Community colleges have a unique opportunity to innovate and envision its communities by simply reimagining it for the 21st century. The current pace of technological advancements within the areas of manufacturing, health care, education and other related industries are growing exponentially but offer students in the digital graphic arts a unique opportunity to be leaders in this field by adopting emerging technologies and implementing them within their careers.
If one were to summarize the mission of this new program it would be stated as follows: To redefine/recreate the community through human insight and new technology to design products and services for the 21st century. Given that most community colleges in the Southern California area services students with opportunities that react to the current economic climate this program would be proactive in creating new opportunities as a result of current labor-market needs using the latest 21st century skills and tools. To do this college officials would analyze job and wage predictions and conduct feasibility studies to weigh the value of the graphic arts program. Courses would be switched or modified when the economy demands it. For example if one were to observe at how current technologically driven experiences are changing people’s expectations and norms in society we find that more people are communicating and interacting digitally then compared to the entire history of the Internet. Digital graphic artists can pursue degrees or certificates in user experience design, which is the study of enhancing customer satisfaction by improving the ease of use in the digital interaction between the customer and the product. According to CNN Money within the last ten years user experience design jobs grew by 22 percent with an average pay reaching $95,000 per year. Digital graphic art students have the opportunity to benefit from this opportunity if they are matched with careers that are available in the near community or create demand by offering local businesses digital solutions toward improving their revenue. The impact of the program would revitalize local economy and give digital graphic arts students a competitive advantage.
The program would also take into consideration new pedagogic principles in regard to digital design thinking. New computational processes in software are creating opportunities for artists to envision new forms and structures that surpass traditional 20thcentury archetypes. These recent advancements in computational tools are creating higher levels of complexity in digital renders, which thereby provide new opportunities to explore a digital design process that encourages research-oriented study. To open students to this pedagogy projects would be treated from a bottom-up process – one can explore processes that can organize a set of ideas and rules that can than modify the process by selecting alternative methods and techniques of exploration. The didactic process to digital design thinking would consist of the following four basic steps:
- Conceptualize and define a specific type of ‘digital format or material’. Digital format or material can be defined as an organizational structure, or pattern, of a certain image or material.
- Define a specific digital design model related to image, form, generation, performance, or relationship of such models.
- Select a context that can best demonstrate the behavior and applicability of the ‘design format or material’ in relation to principles related to formation, generation or performance.
- Develop and present a taxonomy (related to graphic design) that can be used to describe the digital graphic art design thinking processes.
When these projects allow the student to explore the intersections between methodologies, techniques, representational models, etc. the integration between digital media art and the conceptual results engage the imagination and encourage higher levels of cognitive function.
As a result of this program a rich array of resources will be available–and high expectations–for traditionally underserved students. Countless students who may say they were given up elsewhere will be inspired, tutored and pushed to succeed by faculty staff and student ambassadors. Partnerships with local high schools will be enhanced in order to create motivation before students arrive on campus. One example of a high school partnership would be collaborating in creating a TedxYouth event where college and high school students gather for a day of inspiring talks and conversation. The event would strive to empower and inspire young people under a unique theme that encompasses the spirit of the speaker talks within a community. The program would also be saturated with academic support within the courses. Project based learning that encourages a tremendous effort of writing and critical thinking will align with the academic standards of four-year schools. In addition if students can’t graduate school due to endless remedial classes, small learning communities would be activated to accelerate student goals to completion, thereby raising the level of expectation and performance. New faculty hires are chosen to lead by innovation and are tasked with solving problems in creative ways while given the resources to do so.
While the challenges of accomplishing such tasks within a program are by no means small the consequences of not doing anything would be far detrimental to the student, to the community and to society. The world we know today has changed and will continue to change far more rapidly then anyone could imagine. Many of humanity’s greatest creative achievements will occur within the next 30 years as a result of this acceleration. Community College has the proper infrastructure to be a leader in forging this new future for its citizens and show other colleges that an educational institution can indeed redefine and recreate a community for tomorrow.