As high school juniors and seniors grapple with college decisions, they may be surprised to find a promising career path is already in their hands in the games and apps they play for fun and rely on for everyday life.
In the fall of 2019, Villa Maria College will launch a pair of four-year degree programs GameDesign (BFA), the first full program of its kind in the Buffalo area, and Computer SoftwareDevelopment (BS).
Built on the foundation of Villa Maria's highly-regarded animation and graphic design programs, each new track is projected to enroll new students in 2019. True to the Villa Way, the ultra-small class sizes guarantee individualized attention in hands-on, studio-based environments where students will learn cutting-edge technologies and approaches.
A veteran animation professor, Jeffrey Werner helped create the Game Design program. Werner is the founder of E-regular Games, an online gaming platform where he creates games that encourage creativity, problem solving, and social interaction. He and his fellow collaborators have launched a number of games over the years. "The video game industry in the United States is larger than both the movie industry and music industry combined," said Werner. "This means that highly educated employees are in high demand and a degree from Villa will offer students a hands on approach to learning every aspect of video game development in order to properly prepare them to excel in the industry."
In computer software development, program consultant Jeffrey Lesinski designed classes like Comparative Programming Languages, delivering a curriculum that covers more languages than is typical. "Villa's new Computer Software Development program has both depth and breadth," said Lesinski. This is a high demand field and students can expect to learn the contemporary programming languages within a complete set of environments and platforms, from machine level through mobile apps to high-level systems. The projects students will complete build off of common principles and are realistic in that students work individually, in a team setting, and in internships.
Outside classwork, students have free reign of Villa Maria's diverse studios, including an art shop, photography lighting lab, stop-motion studio, recording studio and state-of-the-art computer lab.
"Villa Maria College has a long history of being recognized for its high-quality programs in design, arts and technology. Game Design and Computer Software Development build off of that history, complement and strengthen existing programs like animation and graphic design, and prepare students for lots of opportunities in today's job market," said Dr. Matthew Giordano, Villa's president. "These programs fit perfectly within the signature mission-driven, hands-on, student-centered learning environment that Villa offers."
The Department of Labor reports that computer software developers are enjoying faster-than-average job growth around 24 percent, with the median salary pegged at nearly $108,000. Similarly, video game designers pull in an average salary of $88,000, with growth expected around 10 percent over the next decade.
Here in Western New York, an active video game development culture and ever-growing startup scene confirm the potential and enthusiasm that surrounds these two programs. John Futscher, president of Buffalo Game Space, a local nonprofit dedicated to supporting local game developers, said "We're excited to see more programs supporting our mission of growing STEAM skills and furthering game development as an industry here in Western New York."
Villa Maria's Spring Open House is scheduled for Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. to noon. Interested students and families can RSVP today, or schedule an individual visit for a more personalized tours.