Relevance Makes SCAD Different

Over four decades ago, just before the public release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the great Steven Spielberg shared a profound observation with Rolling Stone magazine. “People have forgotten how to tell a story,” he said. “Stories don’t have a middle or an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.”

Spielberg knew then, as he and master filmmakers know today, that a gripping adventure needs a narrative arc, an outcome — the final Wow! These same ingredients of cinema magic are cornerstones of a SCAD education, a journey of the heart and mind guided by boundless imagination and practical outcomes. From day one, in every class, we tell our SCAD Bees: Here’s what you will learn, this is why it’s important, here’s how it will help you change the world. Immediately, SCAD students understand that their education is relevant.

Purposeful Professionalism

SCAD has, from the beginning, been a special-purpose university, reflected in our mission to prepare students for creative professions. While SCAD is not all things to all people, the university catalyzes creative thinking, improves the world through art and design, and opens doors for ambitious dreamers.

Students drawn to SCAD brim with built-in drive and determination — many already envision entrepreneurial ventures and life-changing inventions — and we give them the power skills they need to succeed. Yet SCAD also equips our Bees to navigate between industries as much as within them, because design thinkers who are versatile are in demand. Take, for example, SCAD alumni working for Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), in Virginia — these Bees build aircraft carriers and submarines. Yet that doesn’t mean they’re all industrial designers; in fact, of the 17 alumni NNS hired this year, 12 majored in interactive design and game development, animation, motion media design, or visual effects. NASA knows well the range of abilities SCAD graduates exemplify, as do the CIA, Deloitte, and GE Transportation, not to mention banking heavyweights such as Capital One and, of course, titans of tech like Google and Facebook. The world needs inventive design thinking, and a SCAD education promises unique utility and unmatched applicability.

Dedicated Dynamism

If SCAD graduates are the nimblest creative professionals in the world, their adaptability mirrors the university’s own relevance and agility. Indeed, SCAD Bees know full well the benefits of the quarter system, the 10-week terms SCAD uses in lieu of the ubiquitous, if antiquated, semester. While semesters are stubborn and sap motivation, quarters quicken the pace and amp up students’ enthusiasm. In this way, quarters mirror the world of work, with quicker deadlines and frequent feedback, appealing to the preferred work styles of Gen Z students and beyond.

For proof of the quarter’s prowess, look no farther than Spring 2020, when SCAD engineered a dramatic transition to 100% virtual and online instruction — in just two weeks! While other universities returned from their spring breaks and struggled to transform curriculum mid-semester, SCAD students began the spring quarter afresh. Their complex and research-intensive SCADpro assignments powered on — including SCADpro FutureProof ventures, which developed solutions for businesses transitioning to work-from-home and K-12 education partners transitioning to learn-from-home. SCAD Bees mastered Slack and Zoom — not to mention advanced industry-standard software packages such as CLO 3D and Katana — gaining sophisticated, subject-matter-specific education in their majors alongside real-world professional experience in the now normal work-from-home. What’s more, SCADamp, the university’s brand new professional communication studio, transformed into a digital pitch and presentation lab, where students honed the same skills that enable the world’s most compelling professionals to speak, visualize, and connect — engage! — with audiences.

Enduring Engagement

From Ford Motor Company to Gulfstream Aerospace, when SCADpro clients partner with the university on research and design challenges, it’s no surprise that they select SCAD alumni who are company execs to serve as assignment leads. Such partnership is just one of the multifarious expressions of our university’s continual engagement of alumni — who serve as magnets within their companies to attract new hires from SCAD and create links to SCAD resources, like SCAD Art Sales and SCADpro innovation studio. Indeed, while other universities create large fundraising departments that sometimes employ hundreds of people, SCAD focuses resources on career and alumni success, SCAD CAS. With 37 deeply devoted professionals who support graduates, SCAD advances alumni careers through professional networking services and helps them find their next great opportunity or move from one creative industry to another. Rather than just asking our alumni for donations, we invest in their dreams through lifetime career advancement services.

The investment begins before they graduate, when CAS professionals, professors, and student success advisors help students create highly honed résumés and portfolios, secure letters of recommendation and internships, and engage with top-tier employers through interviews, guest lectures, masterclasses, and SCADpro assignments. Intentional professional preparation begins in SCAD First Year Experience classes, where new students build the armature for their résumés, and career building continues throughout their time at university. SCAD students accumulate relevant educational credentials — majors, minors, double-majors, and professional certifications such as LEED, AVID, and Rhinoceros 3D Modeling. SCAD offers more than 100 accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees, and students, while enrolled, gain substantial practical experience, including: SCADpro Ask research explorations of creative business leadership, webinar or on-stage introductions of luminaries and artists — like André Benjamin, Sienna Miller, and Aldis Hodge — at SCAD signature events, and more.

Additionally, SCAD students fill their résumés with awards: 83 of our Bees earned international honors at the 2020 Indigo Design Awards — considerably more than any other university. Such accomplishments stem from SCAD’s tireless support of students; this past year alone, SCAD helped students apply for and receive 586 individual honors, awards, and recognitions, including 312 first-place wins. Truly, no other university matriculates students who are as career-ready as SCAD Bees. And no other university pledges such lifelong support — from access to SCAD amenities to ongoing personal career coaching — like SCAD.

Intentional Inclusiveness

Career preparation — and, more specifically, meaningful professional attainment — is the heart of our SCAD mission, yet it would not be possible if the university were designed like any other. Now, as people conscientiously challenge the status quo and staid institutions, I’m reminded of SCAD’s founding — and of the university’s relative youth, one of our cultural hallmarks and greatest advantages. SCAD has been different and inclusive from the very beginning, and our open-minded, nimble character makes us forever relevant.

I’ve proudly served for 20 years as SCAD’s president, dedicating careful attention to individual students, faculty, and staff, whom I consider family. I am a rara avis in higher learning, not only for my leadership longevity, but for my gender. Few women have the opportunity to lead institutions since more than two-thirds of all U.S. college and university presidents are men. Such realities have fueled me as an educator, an arts entrepreneur, and a champion of access and opportunity for students.

Indeed, Priority №1 has always been, and will forever be, our students. SCAD focuses on inclusivity, on a campus culture that eschews fraternities, sororities, or other such organizations that evoke elitism or division. Instead, SCAD has a United Student Forum, 125 student clubs and organizations, and countless collaboration opportunities between majors. More than a quarter of our students hail from abroad, creating organic global connections, friendships, and international professional networks; most importantly, they further enrich SCAD hometown communities of Atlanta, Lacoste, and Savannah with diverse perspectives. At SCAD, our students value community and volunteer their time and talents through SCAD SERVE and other service initiatives that promote togetherness and unity.

Whether virtually or in-person, students unite for SCADpro Hack-a-thons; SCAD Bee Well workshops on essential nutrition, sustainable eating, and more; and SCADfit classes featuring Pilates and yoga. SCAD doesn’t have a big-time football team because we focus on wellness and lifetime sports — swimming, cycling, and more — that promote healthy lifestyles in addition to athletic championships. We ensure our students have higher education’s most comprehensive, compelling, and current curriculum by hiring professors directly from industry and the creative disciplines — and instead of a divisive pecking order, all SCAD faculty are heralded as full professors.

Truly, SCAD’s unique philosophy, agility, and harmony realized our much applauded Spring Quarter 2020 transition to virtual instruction. These same distinctions that have led to SCAD’s renown as The University for Creative Careers will continue as hallmarks into the fall and throughout every quarter to come. A SCAD education will forever engage and evolve, because it always transforms to remain relevant — in essence, it grows, yet never grows old.

As Pablo Picasso famously said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” All educators are, by definition, also learners. At SCAD, we seek and embrace our inner child, because we value all the best instincts of youth: tenderness, curiosity, and directness. And, of course, imagination.

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Paula Wallace

Paula Wallace

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Designer. Author. President and Founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) || http://scad.edu || http://instagram.com/paulaswallace