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Southern Arkansas University Magnolia Adds Computer Gaming & Animation Design Degree Program

Students will learn about creating mobile apps, 3-D designs and lifelike animations.
MAGNOLIA, AR (News Release) - Southern Arkansas University (SAU) is ready to register creative and passionate students for the fall 2013 semester into a new, unique and high-demand program for computer gaming and animation design.

SAU recently became the first and only university in Arkansas and region to offer a complete program dedicated to providing instruction from the technical as well as the artistic points of view. SAU is gearing up to produce graduates who will be ready to fill the ever-growing demands for mobile apps, 3-D designs and lifelike animations. The University anticipates interest from students from across the U.S. who are interested in this growing field as SAU's program is dramatically more affordable than other programs across the states.

During a meeting of the Department of Higher Education Coordinating Board on Friday, April 27, 2013, approval was granted for SAU to offer a B.F.A. in Art and Design for Game, Animation and Simulation Design. The B.S. in Computer Science with an option in Computer Gaming and Animation Design had previously been adopted.

"We already have freshman students planning to attend SAU and others planning to transfer here this fall to take advantage of this innovative new program. This new major and option at Southern Arkansas will be unlike any other in the state," said Dr. Trey Berry, SAU vice president for academic affairs. "The market for game and animation designers and game programmers is one of the fastest growing in the United States."

Gaming is part of a larger field of software development, a field that is not only growing and rewarding, but also pays well. According to the 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary in the U.S. for software developers is $90,530, with a 30% faster than average job outlook for the years 2010-2020. The media salaries for visual artists start at $61,000, as listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics under Multimedia Artists and Art Directors and Multimedia Artists and Animators.

"Students' interest and job market opportunities in computer gaming have both been rapidly rising," said Dr. Khalil Dajani, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at SAU. "This new gaming option has the potential to attract many new and talented students to our University."

What the art side of the program intends to do is to prepare students in the visual aspect, or in the terms of the trade -- the "user side experience," according to Dan May, chair of the SAU Art Department.

Students will be educated to create apps for mobile devices, games for the gaming industry, and animation in traditional and 3-D aspects of the entertainment industry. May anticipates more exciting possibilities involve future applications for visual interactions in fields outside of the expected areas that may intrigue potential students.

The same applications which students use to make 3-D simulated environments for games and animation are evolving beyond the entertainment field. Simulations are a less-expensive alternative for training in virtual realities for transportation, medical and military field where equipment or human beings risk being injured, according to May.

But the possibilities do not end there. A student will be able to learn to use technological software in this program to not only create a 3-D model, but also print their creations in 3-D. 

"Experts are already printing synthetic materials weaved with stem cells to replace heart valves, creating cochlear implants and universal joints, prototyping toys, and the possibilities are endless," said May. "This process could one day replace the way manufacturing is done. It is a career that art students will get firsthand knowledge and experience with this 'Star Trekian' process."

One 3-D printer is already in place and being used by students at SAU, and more are being shipped to campus soon in preparation for the fall semester.

Click here for more information about Southern Arkansas University and the computer gaming and animation design programs.
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