University Printing Programs -- The Next Impression
By Kristen E. Monte
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.
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."
In the mountains of Boone, NC, Appalachian State University's Thomas W. Reese Graphic Arts and Imaging Technology (GAIT) program is currently working on adding a teaching degree in Trade and Industry with a skill concentration in graphic arts.
"We know there is a need for graphic arts teachers, and Appalachian has a foundation in education," explains Robin Williams, program coordinator. This four-year program, boasting 150 undergraduates, is also looking to educate the next generation of printers with more convenience.
"We are teaming up with community colleges to begin offering our program off-campus," explains Williams. "GAIT is also working on offering online courses. We have our first online course beginning in the spring."
Keeping up with technology and industry trends are not the only issues on which graphic communications educators fixate. There is also the conundrum of how to acquire modern equipment.
"We are very fortunate to have had much support from the industry," notes Jesus Rodriguez, professor and chairman, Graphics and Imaging Technologies, at Pittsburg State University. "Heidelberg has been one of our staunchest supporters. Since 1997, we have received more than $1.3 million in assistance in the form of cash, donation of materials, supplies and equipment."
The Department of Graphics and Imaging Technologies at the Pittsburg, KS, school offers two majors: Commercial Graphics and Graphic Communications Management. The department's home, the $30 million Kansas Technology Center, showcases more than $2 million of equipment. When the center was completed in 1997, enrollment was 170 students; it currently stands at 250.
"We also added the digital media, photography and screen printing emphases," says Rodriguez. "It is our responsibility to maintain and grow a program that has appeal and practicality and, at the same time, in keeping with the needs of the industry."
Although many colleges and universities offer some sort of associates or bachelors degree in graphic communications, Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) vaunts the best associate degree program in the nation, according to Dean Flowers, associate dean.
On the verge of breaking ground on one of the most advanced academic facilities in the country, WCTC is aspiring to create the regional hub for industry training. The college, located in Pewaukee, WI, is centered in the largest printing population in the country.
Tentatively named Printing Applied Technology, the center will be combined with the 55,000-square-foot Harry V. Quadracci Printing and Graphics Center, which opened in 2001. The new 27,000-square-foot center will be a home for industry training, education, manufacturer demonstrations and will provide opportunities for the entire industry.
"The main goal of the center, and of the school, is to maintain a highly skilled, higher-waged printer," says Flowers. "We want to support the industry by increasing employee technology skills and knowledge about the entire industry."
Ground breaking for the new center is planned for April or May. It should take about nine months to complete and occupy the facility, according to Flowers.
WCTC has a current enrollment of 1,200 students in its certification program and nearly 700 students in its associate degree program. According to Flowers, every graduate in the class of 2004 was employed following graduation. Students also have the option to transfer to a four-year university print program.
"Many students, about 25 to 35 percent, go on to the University of Wisconsin-Stout after completing the program, for a four-year degree," explains Flowers. "The rest go right into the workforce."
One of the top graphic communications universities in the country is in the midst of a major fundraising campaign to celebrate its 60th anniversary. The Graphic Communications Institute at Cal Poly State University, in San Luis Obispo, CA, has embarked upon an effort to raise $2.5 million to support research, seminars and workshops, as well as the introduction of new programs. Cal Poly has reached separate partnerships with Goss International and with the Flexographic Technical Association to provide seminars to the industry.
The Research Professors from Industry program is being tapped to bring in research professors from all over the country to teach a 10-week course. In addition, a new concentration in packaging will be introduced.
According to Harvey Levenson, Ph.D., department head of the Graphic Communication Department, $750,000 has been raised so far. At the end of the effort, $2 million of the funds will be placed in an endowment, and $500,000 will be used for the immediate educational needs of the department.
"We exist to make sure that the industry exists," says Levenson. "We are educating the best prepared students to carry out the mission of the industry, to make sure that companies are successful and to ensure the future of the industry."
The ACCGC-accredited program, which is home to approximately 350 students and more than 3,000 alumni, has a heavy focus on digital technologies, according to Levenson. He says that there is a balance, however, with traditional printing techniques.
Another top graphic communications university is the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), which has also evolved its program to reflect newer industry trends.
RIT's School of Print Media offers two undergraduate programs: one in Graphic Media, an evolution of the university's core printing program; and New Media Publishing, a five-year-old program focused on the latest technologies. A Masters in Print Media is also offered, along with Packaging Science, housed in a separate school. The School of Print Media has a current enrollment of 319 students.
The Rochester, NY-based school is constantly moving courses and repackaging programs to best serve the industry, according to Patricia Sorce, chair of the School of Print Media.
"Students want to study the communications aspects of the program the most, but there is a balance in the program so that they learn all aspects of print," says Sorce. "We also approach information and materials sciences. I feel strongly that these complicities must be built into the program. Students still have to understand information workflow along with new Web development.
"Understanding the complexity of print is what we teach," she adds. "Our students assume a lot of responsibilities very quickly once they leave here. They leave here prepared."
New Kid on the Block
A welcomed newcomer to the educational world of graphic communications is Fairleigh Dickinson University. The largest private university in New Jersey has recently formed an educational alliance with the Association of Graphic Communications (AGC).
The official signing was held last November during AGC's fourth Graphic Communications Day conference. The program is part of Fairleigh Dickinson's Executive MBA program, featuring a new concentration in Graphic Communications Management. The program is designed for senior- and mid-level managers who are looking to lead organizations. It will be shaped based upon the experience the managers bring to this 21-month program.
The AACSB-accredited Executive MBA program is a part of the Silberman College of Business and is home to nearly 2,000 graduates.
Two other renowned universities also offer important programs for the industry. New York University, located in New York City, offers a B.S. in Communication Studies, in the Department of Culture and Communications as a part of the prestigious Steinhardt School of Education. The program has a focus on exploration of the social and cultural impact of communications and offers a concentration in Graphic Communications.
The concentration teaches ideals of commercial printing, advertising, marketing, the allied industries, management techniques and computer technologies. The school also offers a Masters in Graphic Communications Management and Technology program, which reflects the latest advances in both theory and technology, along with how these changes influence communication in society.
There are certainly many more graphic communications programs around the country, all of which are offering students a bright career in a necessary and economically rebounding industry.
The face of printing might not be the same as it was 100, 50 or even 20 years ago, but these schools, in conjunction with printing companies and manufacturers alike, are shaping the next generation of printers with a core knowledge of printing's past and a strong grasp on what the future will bring.