Southern Arkansas University was recently ranked among the top 10 universities in the South for aspiring game designers and developers by Animation Career Review thanks to its two animation and game development academic programs.
In 2013, SAU became the only university in Arkansas to have a complete program for Computer Game and Animation Design. Even better, SAU offers two game development options: a Bachelor of Science option from the SAU College of Science and Engineering and a Bachelor of Fine Arts option from the SAU Department of Art and Design.
“We are very happy to hear of this new ranking,” said SAU President Dr. Trey Berry. “The game design majors at SAU are two of the fastest growing areas of study on our campus, and we are proud of the dedication of our faculty and staff members who are helping us progress these exciting programs.”
The faculty, staff and students of these game development programs are hosting an inaugural Game Development Summer Camp for 9th to 12th grade students from July 20-23. All applications must be submitted online by July 7 at https://web.saumag.edu/game-camp. Registration fee is $250, and covers all room and board for the four day, three night camp.
Rhaelene Lowther, assistant professor for the B.F.A. game design program, has seen firsthand how these new programs at SAU have developed, and she gives a lot of credit to the students.
Junior game developer Kayla O’Neal, of Shongaloo, Louisiana, and senior computer science game developer Zachary Hardy, of Magnolia, recently joined Lowther to represent SAU at the Dallas Comic Con. Feeling the trip a success in raising awareness for SAU’s programs, Lowther said they have scheduled to attend upcoming comic cons in Little Rock and Texarkana.
O’Neal and Hardy also teamed-up and won first place for their poster outlining their educational game board design at the Mid-South Undergraduate Research Conference in the spring. Their poster was also accepted and will be presented at the National Honors Conference in Chicago this fall.
Another of the art game development students, senior Tara Massey of Camden, has already published online a small educational game. The game is called “Bully Color Breakdown,” and it allows users to explore dog color genetics, specifically those that commonly occur in the American Bully breed.
Lowther said that her students worked this past academic year on learning game mechanics and design by creating board games. They have also begun learning 3-D modeling in Maya and learning animation principles through traditional animation.
To add to their learning experience, Lowther invited several industry professionals visit SAU last year, and even more are coming for 2015-16. Two animators are already scheduled for the fall, and one will be offering a workshop during his visit. A Skype Discussion Program is also being established so that more pros can give presentations and do Q&A’s with students. Lowther was excited to have an animator from Utah and a game designer from New York City Skype with the students last year.
Lowther’s vision for this next year and beyond includes the creation of a Women in Gaming Technology Symposium. She also will continue to foster industry connections and gain internships and other industry support from the region. Academically in 2015-16, she plans to work with her students more on 3-D animation and 3-D modeling and sculpting.
According to Berry, SAU annually invests a significant amount of resources to assure that the students continue to study with state-of-the-art equipment and software. In recent years, SAU has begun to pursue new majors that reflect growing trends in the job market and student interests. These cutting-edge majors have contributed to SAU’s enrollment growth, which has been highlighted with four straight record-setting semesters.