Next January, when Salt Lake City Community College (SLCC) opens the doors to its $45 million state-of-the-art Center for New Media, the South City Campus will become the epicenter for the school's creative curricula and a focal point for Utah entrepreneurs and small businesses involved in new media.
In response to the growing business demand for a highly trained technical and professional labor force, the Center, which comprises 180,000 square feet of new space, will accommodate approximately 9,000 new students and house programs, curricula, learning spaces, advanced technology design labs for SLCC's School of Arts, Communication and New Media.
The Center is being built at a critical time, as SLCC's School of Fine Arts has full classes and students on waiting lists. For the business community, the Center will fill a critical need in helping to meet the demand for skilled workers that is projected to increase by 20 percent by 2018.
Speaking of the Center for New Media, SLCC President Dr. Cynthia A. Bioteau says, "Our mission is to train Utah's labor force and enhance the cultural core of the neighborhood where it sits. The location of our South City Campus is an area of revitalization, so this Center will contribute to both cultural access and workforce demands."
Dr. Anna Szabados, Dean of the School of Arts, Communication and New Media, says the Center for New Media will be cutting-edge. It will also be inter-disciplinary, in that it will house a variety of disciplines, including graphic design, web design, film, animation. It will also be the center for many community-based events that will utilize the Center's fabulous spaces.
A virtual picture of the gaming lab in SLCC's Center for New Media.
"What we are hoping for is a wonderful synergy between the different disciplines. We already have an excellent faculty and a fair amount of synergy between disciplines, but having everybody under the same roof, with the exception of performing arts (which will be integrated in phase two of the project), is going to be extremely beneficial for faculty and students, and frankly for the community as well," Szabados continues. "We are looking at the Center for New Media as the center for many creative endeavors."
Because the building's design is so innovative, Szabados says the college wants to be sure that the curriculum is equally innovative. Hence, a number of new degree programs and new certificate programs are being added to the curriculum. For example, the school is adding a new certificate in web design and a new MIDI certificate for musicians.
"We are also offering a Creative Arts Entrepreneurship Certificate program that is completely unique to the State of Utah," she says. "Our focus is making sure our students have an understanding of some very targeted business information, because many of the people who leave our programs do freelance work or start their own businesses. They need to know how to open up a new business, how to promote themselves, how protect their work by copyrights, trade marking – those kinds of issues – and of course how to deal with money. This certificate program will feed any of the creative disciplines. We are very excited about that. "
Much of SLCC's success in meeting current and future labor force needs is due to the college's partnerships with business, industry and government. Szabados says that every time the college develops a new program "we look at industry trends and labor market data concerning what we can expect a few years down the road. We also rely on our very active advisory board and the industry people we are bringing in to the school."
SLCC's advisory board includes a variety of notable businesses and organizations, including:
- Apple Computer
- Adobe Systems
- Electronic Arts
- The Leonardo
- Sundance Institute
- Redman Movies
- Salt Lake City Film Society
- Utah Film Commission
- Konica Minolta
- The Governor's Office of Economic Development
- Salt Lake Unified School District
- Granite School District
"We have a rather powerful advisory board," says Szabados, "because it is essential for us to have cutting-edge information from our board and partners so that we can develop industry-responsive curriculum. It is really a team effort between our administration, faculty and industry."
SLCC's regional Adobe Day this April 27 is a good example of the industry-partnerships the college enjoys. Adobe Day will be the first statewide all-day event where the college will join forces with Adobe Systems to train faculty and advanced students on the new release of Adobe Creative Suite.
SLCC is unique in that 88 percent of its students work either full or part time, while the average age of its student body is 26 years old. "We have to be very flexible to support the learning pathways of our diverse student body," says President Bioteau. Indeed, the college fills an important role in serving the educational needs of adult learners who either need to sharpen their skills, add new skills or are in the process of changing professions.
Further, the college was recently awarded a U.S. Department of Labor Community-based Job Training Grant, which has helped SLCC reach out to low income, disadvantaged students. "And they are responding," says Szabados. "We have about 300 students already enrolled in the grant program with an additional 75 going through the approval process, so that is additionally impacting all of our classes."
Although SLCC's Center for New Media will open in January, the college is still in fundraising mode. Szabados says the college needs another $5 million to add the large, beautiful gallery (for showing the work of local artists), the conference center and fitness center that are in the Center's master plan. And while SLCC is primarily a teaching a facility, Szabados is hopeful that local businesses will see the opportunity to utilize the Center's resources, such as doing film editing at night, when classes are not in session.
"I am personally envisioning the center as more than a just teaching facility. It will become more of a creative community center for many other small, creative businesses in the Salt Lake Valley. We are extremely excited about the possibilities and the partnerships we are forming between education, business and government. The quality of creative work coming out of Utah is going to be even higher than we have now," Szabados explains.