Community Colleges: Thoughts From the Two-Year Front

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.

By admin
Published November 23, 2011
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