Design Educators Community

Community Colleges: Thoughts From the Two-Year Front

November 23, 2011 / By admin

It was great getting to meet educators at the recent AIGA Pivot conference who expressed an interest in or already participating in teaching or coordinating graphic design programs housed in community colleges. Our impromptu roundtable discussion was especially helpful in getting a conversation started regarding issues specifically related to design education in in these typically two-year, publicly-supported institutions.

Obviously the current economic climate has increased pressure for community colleges to prepare students for the job market through transfer programs and workforce development. More students are considering either beginning their studies at a community college prior to transfer or actually completing a two-year graphic design program and entering the profession directly. Depending on the geographic marketplace, the community college system and relationship with local and regional universities and colleges of art, students have varying levels of success. Unlike most schools, community colleges are typically open enrollment institutions, while the degree programs may have some form of entry requirements. Still the challenges faced by students go beyond academic preparation. Balancing work, family and school, students often take longer than the planned two years to earn an associate degree. And since two-year graphic design programs are almost as varied as the students we serve, it is difficult to determine the most important learning outcomes in this type of environment. Numerous questions come to mind—and there are many answers—since regional markets vary greatly:

In two years is it possible to prepare student for an entry-level graphic design career? In this timeframe, can students achieve the intellectual, creative and technical growth necessary to step into an entry level job?

To educators who are connected to community colleges, what are some of the greatest challenges that two-year programs face? Open enrollment? (and the related issues of students who are under-prepared academically)? Time constraints? Budget? Space? Skilled and qualified faculty?

Are you familiar with associate degree programs that exhibit best practices for a two-year graphic design program?

Should a student completing a two-year program also be prepared for transfer to program in a four-year institution? Or is occupational preparation the primary goal? Can both be achieved?

We look forward to your participation in this discussion. Please comment below and share your thoughts on this timely topic.

Contact Mara Fulmer with any further questions.

AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.
  • Larry Launstein Jr

    I think Mara Fulmer has some very valid questions, and I was the beneficiary of graphic art training at her college. I’m proof of everything she is asking is attainable, not only for the colleges, but for the students as well. While at Mott Community College (and later at the University of Michigan-Flint), I was already running my own graphic art-web design business, taking classes and fully partaking in student life. The preparation I received at Mott Community College helped me with my later academic career at UM-flint, and my current business activities. I have seen first-hand the great works of Mott Community College students at their art shows. And one of them showed me how to handle thumbnails in a way I had never considered until I met her. There’s a lot of new things coming from all the art schools, and I for one believe that there’s not enough emphasis on continuing education beyond the usual time frame in college. I think we need to consider making available lifelong programs for those who want to come back to class from time to time and learn new skills on top of the ones they already have. I for one would be definitely interested in this. I believe both continued education at a 4-year school and occupational preparation that a community college offers can be achieved. Mott served me well both in my business activities and my continued academic activities.