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Newest Academic Division is Synergy of Cooperation

Syn-er-gy: noun 1. to work together. 2. combines or cooperative action or force


Professor Phil Youngblood teaches his CIS Network class.

his word, more than any other, defines the School of Interactive Media and Design.

Headed by Dr. Cheryl Anderson, the school brings together the university’s most creative programs under the auspices of a single unit, allowing unprecedented sharing of faculty and resources.

“These programs have a lot in common,” Dean Anderson said. “They are applied in nature, creative, and rely heavily on technology in their curricula.”

The school comprises the Communication Arts, Computer Graphic Arts, Computer Information Systems, Fashion Management, and Interior Environmental Design programs, and is completing its first full academic year in May.

Anderson, who formerly served as the university’s director of Instructional Technology, is enthusiastic about how well the programs fit together. “There are a lot of possibilities for interaction between the departments, opportunities for them to support one another.”

Students of Professor Hank McDonnell's Advanced Audio class experiment with microphones

Another commonality between the programs is their rapid growth; the fashion and computer graphic arts programs have upped their enrollments by 50 and nearly 30 new students, respectively, in the fall of 2003, Anderson said.

“This is going to be a very fast growing school,” Anderson said. “One of the primary challenges to the university is, ‘How do we support the growth? If we get all these new students, where do we put them?’”

The program coordinators for each area are responsible for the rapid rises in enrollments through their interactions with the community as well, Anderson added.

Examples include last fall’s Computer Graphic Arts open house for high schoolers, which brought several hundred prospective students to campus, and the work of Phil Youngblood, Computer Information Systems chair, to survey employers in the field about what they look for in graduates and develop a market for UIW interns.

Among the challenges for the program are developing transfer articulation agreements, commonly known as “two-plus-twos,” with the four area community colleges, and setting up community advisory boards for the programs where they don’t already exist, Anderson said.

A student works on his assignment during his 3D Animation Class.

The faculty within the new school liked the arrangement, as well. Hank McDonnell, chair of the Communication Arts program, called the new school a benefit to all. “We’ve enjoyed working with the other programs,” he said. “It’s been great to see how we are all alike, share values, and want the same things for our students.”

“We have the technology, and are able to open a lot of doors for the students,” McDonnell added, “Having the most up-to-date equipment and software gives them a competitive edge when it comes time for them to get jobs.”

Students laud the change as well. Mike Irizarry, a transfer student from San Antonio College and a Computer Graphic Arts major, called the professors very knowledgeable. “I’ve learned as much in one semester here as in a whole year, before,” he said.

Most of all, Anderson is excited about the enthusiasm of the faculty, whom she called among the most dedicated on campus. “They will bend over backwards for the kids. They are great teachers,” she said. “When we have our staff meetings, there’s a lot of synergy in the air.”

And that synergy is not only in their meeting room, but on the rest of the campus, as well.


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