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SUNY Polytechnic Institute Takes Interdisciplinary Approach to Interactive Media, Game Design

A new degree program will help students collaborate across disciplines to make a bigger impact.

This fall, students attending SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, N.Y., will be able to enroll in a new degree program that will help them learn skills across disciplines in interactive media.

For the past few years, the institute has been planning a Bachelor of Science degree in Interactive Media and Game Design, which will prepare students to become lead designers, concept artists, scripters, writers and project managers in the interactive media and game design industries. Faculty at the institute developed the degree program and reviewed it along with academic leaders and deans. Over the last two years, the New York State Education Department and the State University of New York have been putting the program through their vetting process, and they approved it last week.

That's the trade-off with a large state system: "You have more levels to go through; on the other hand, you get more eyes on it," said Robert E. Geer, senior vice president and chief operating officer at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. "At the end of the day, we like to think it makes it a stronger program when it gets out."

After an explosion of progress in nanotechnology, electronics and computer science, the field of interactive media continues to grow, Geer said, adding that the gaming industry makes up a huge chunk of the business in this field. For students who want to see a return on their college investment, a degree like this one could make sense because plenty of jobs across the country exist for people with these skills. 

This interdisciplinary program will bring together students who specialize in different aspects of interactive media so they can learn to collaborate on projects in their classes. This will mean that students with skills in communication and media, for instance, would be able to understand more of what the software development process looks like and how they can collaborate with technically minded teammates, and vice versa.

Ultimately, students with different skills and background knowledge will come out of the program with the tools they need to work on interdisciplinary projects throughout their career. And that will serve them well not just in game design, but in all interactive media fields, Geer said.

"It's not about expanding what you're already an expert at," he said. "The impact you make depends on how well you can connect with other areas."