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University Printing Programs -- The Next Impression

February 2005
By Kristen E. Monte

Associate Editor

Many children dream of growing up to become a doctor, movie star or even President of the United States. But how many kids imagine life as a printer? As one of the largest segments of American manufacturing, printing provides for a workforce of more than 1 million jobs and annual revenues in the area of $150 billion. There is not a day that goes by, on average, without some sort of contact with graphic communications.

An explosion of opportunities is pushing the industry to new heights, and with it comes the need for a highly skilled labor force. Students recognize that the era of Ben Franklin's printing is long gone. Printing Impressions spoke with professors at several of the top graphic communications universities and colleges for a look at how they're preparing the next generation of printers.

Hands-on Approach

Preparation is the greatest focus of the graphic communications program at Clemson University, Clemson, SC. This goal is achieved through actual experience, according to Dr. J. Page Crouch, Department of Graphic Communications.

"Clemson employs a hands-on, problem-solving approach to all technical areas," says Crouch. "Very little is taught in a theoretical fashion without concurrent hands-on application."

With 425 undergraduate and 15 graduate students, the Clemson program incorporates new technologies while balancing a curriculum that explores all phases of production. While older practices are reduced or deleted from the program, the basics—from design through traditional and digital printing and finishing—are examined.

"Clemson's inclination is to stay the course while always striving to stay current with technical and market trends," states Crouch.

There is a need in the printing industry to find employees who not only know traditional workflows, but who also understand digital workflows. For this reason, Ferris State University began offering a B.S. in New Media Printing and Publishing in 1999.

A first-of-its-kind in the United States, the New Media program, which focuses on color management and digital workflows, is combined with a B.S. in Printing Management, which teaches basic print operations management, customer service and estimating.

These two degrees, home to 125 undergraduates, fall within the College of Technology at this Big Rapids, MI, university to create a program that is under constant revision to meet the ever-changing needs of the industry.

"We have a very active and aggressive advisory board that has provided us with outstanding information about the trends and future of our industry," says Patrick Klarecki, department chair, Printing and Imaging Technology Management. "The New Media degree was the first in the nation and has now been followed by schools like RIT. Other schools have shifted their programs to more of a design or animation emphasis because that is what kids want. We have held fast to our focus of production skills—what employers want despite a flat enrollment."


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