Animation & Game Art reimagined to target the most in-demand jobs in its field

With some recent changes, one of PCA&D’s departments has aligned itself more closely with skills in great demand in its creative field.

And the changes go much deeper than just the name, shifting from Digital Media to Animation & Game Art.

Asked to name three aspects of the department that have changed this academic year, Chair Jon di Venti‘s response is: “How about 8?!

“Our new curriculum was designed in such a way that students now choose between eight areas of focus which reflect specific job titles in the animation and game industries,” di Venti says. “Each of the eight tracks in Animation & Game Art’s new curriculum reflects a high-demand job skill (or title) in the animation and game industries.”

Those eight new tracks are:

  • Character Animation for Film
  • Character Animation for Games
  • Character Modeling for Film
  • Character Modeling for Games
  • Set Design for Film
  • Environment Modeling for Games
  • Level Design for Games
  • Visual Development (for Film and Games)

Read on to learn more about the department’s refined focus, as well as what Animation & Game Art BFA students can expect:

Can you first explain, in a nutshell, the effect on how Animation & Game Art students will pursue their BFA degree?

JdV: Much like the original program, all Animation & Game Art students will still learn all the various aspects of the pipeline, but they will now have more classes in their specific area of interest which will allow them to develop a higher level of expertise, and a portfolio/reel that reflects that.

From start to finish, how long did this departmental change take?

JdV: I began working at PCA&D in August of 2016, and I began to see a need for some changes in the department immediately. I felt the Digital Media curriculum (and name) was a bit vague and non-specific. As I began to learn more about our students’ interests and career goals, it became obvious that most of them were in the Digital Media department because they wanted to learn animation, 3D modeling, level design for games, etc. Very soon, I began proposing changes in that direction, and it has been an ongoing process since then. Since our new President Mike Molla and Provost Dr. Cari Massey have come on board, that process has been expedited significantly and we’ve been able to make the lion’s share of changes over the past six months or so.

Is it possible, in a nutshell, to share a “5 steps” of this process — such as what bodies need to give approval, etc.?

JdV: Upon her arrival, Dr. Massey put in place a new committee which oversees all curricular changes within the College. Through assessment and discussion with their faculty, department Chairs develop and submit proposals to the Curriculum Review Committee. The Committee then reviews and votes on those proposals, which then moves to the Committee of the Whole, and finally the Board of Trustees for approval. If the proposed changes reflect more than a 25% change in the department’s curriculum, it then has to move on to our Accreditation Agencies (NASAD and MSCHE) for evaluation and final approval before it can be implemented. Fortunately, the changes we made fell within that 25%, so we were able to move the process along more quickly.

What else happened with the curriculum?

JdV: The name change from Digital Media to Animation & Game Art reflects the specificity and distinction that I and the majority of the department’s students wanted to see in the department. However, there were still a lot of courses left over from the original curriculum which were not conducive to that new focus. After our proposed name change was approved, we then had the freedom to begin cutting and adding courses to further buttress that new name.   

What would someone who graduated from this department still recognize as a core part of the department? In other words: What HASN’T changed?

JdV: From the beginning the department has used, and still uses, the most current industry standard software including the Adobe Creative Suite, AutoDesk Maya, and the Unreal and Unity game engines. Past graduates would also recognize the visual development, storyboarding, animation, and gaming classes which are still intact. 

Are these changes already in place, or will they begin in Fall 2020?

JdV: These changes are effective immediately, but because our current AGA students are already part way through the program, we won’t see the full integration of changes until Fall 2020. (I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to give a shout-out to one of our full-time faculty members, Johan Klingler, for his integral role in the design of this new track system. Thanks, Johan!