Computer graphics programs climb national rankings in animation, game design, UX

Students work with CGT faculty member David Whittinghill (left) in the Games Innovation Laboratory. (Purdue University photo/John O'Malley)

Note: This piece was coauthored by Alison Manges and Nick Pompella

In December 2023, Animation Career Review ranked three degree programs in Purdue Polytechnic’s Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) at the top of several categories.

Animation Career Review is viewed as an “authority” for school and corporate rankings among new professionals in computer graphics, said CGT’s interim department head Nicoletta Adamo.

“High rankings in these fields are extremely important,” Adamo stated. “It’s a testament to the programs’ commitment to academic excellence … and it translates directly into enhanced credibility and job opportunities for students.”

Animation:

  • #1 in Indiana
  • #10 nationally among public schools and colleges
  • #7 nationally among schools offering an animation related MS/MA degree
  • #36 nationally among all schools (public and private) offering an animation degree (top 20%)

Game Design and Development:

  • #1 in Indiana
  • #11 nationally among public schools and colleges
  • #3 in the Midwest
  • #26 nationally among all schools (public and private) offering a game design degree (top 20%)

User Experience (UX):

  • #6 undergraduate nationally
  • #4 undergraduate nationally among public schools and colleges
  • #10 graduate nationally
  • #7 graduate nationally among public schools and colleges
  • #2 graduate degrees in the Midwest

Both Adamo and CGT students from the animation, game design and UX programs noted that faculty adopt innovative curriculum, taken to be a crucial component of the department’s success.

“After a brief instruction period, we immediately get started on practical exercises and projects intended to help us apply newly-learned material right away,” said Aashika Parekh, a student in CGT’s user experience major. “This approach creates a lively and hands-on learning atmosphere.” Parekh also specified Nancy Rasche as a CGT faculty member who has “significantly influenced” her capacity to “push [her] boundaries” on projects.

During a Q&A from 2022, current student Aidan Janes stated that the animation program at Purdue remained competitive even as her number of college options piled on.

“I actually applied to 13 different schools before I ended up at Purdue,” Janes said. Many of Janes’ options were traditional art schools, which seemed to provide a radically different educational path during her decision-making process.

“But Purdue offered more opportunities for me, not only in the equipment they offer—they have huge Wacom tablets in all of the labs and these beautiful computers that can run any program perfectly, and for free—but also because most labs are open 24 hours a day, and the professors have worked in the industry and bring that experience into what they do.”

Uma Claire Teelock (left) works with another student and Whittinghill on a character design project. (Purdue University photo/John O'Malley)

Across the entire Polytechnic college, bringing industry knowledge into the classroom remains a top priority. In CGT’s case, many professors have been selected on the basis of preexisting industry experience, and thus are able to provide firsthand knowledge in students’ field of interest.

"[Dr. Whittinghill] is very knowledgeable in the field, [and] he also frequently goes back to game studios over the summers to keep his knowledge fresh,” said Uma Claire Teelock, a student currently majoring in game development and design. “Being here gives me a chance to learn from people who know what it’s like to be in the game industry.”

According to a departmental blog post, the game development major will soon also be ranked in the Princeton Review’s Top 50 programs for game design. In addition to Princeton Review’s reputation as a hub for higher education test prep material and program info, its game design rankings have also appeared in PC Gamer magazine. PC Gamer is one of the bestselling gaming magazines in the US and the UK, and has hosted dedicated multi-page features to these program rankings since 2013.

Teelock and several other students from the majors in question also mentioned that CGT’s faculty are especially good at dialing in on a student’s interests. This gives students the leeway to continue developing ideas from their labs into fully-fledged portfolio pieces with a shelf-life beyond their college experience.

“In my time in the department, I’ve seen how those kinds of projects really develop. The evidence from their sheer creative output showcases that our students are of exceptionally high quality,” Adamo stated.

 

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