Gamers grow up to be developers

Students who’ve grown up playing video games are flocking to game development programs that teach programming and design, reports Community College Daily.

More than 200 students are enrolled in the game development department at Johnson County Community College in Kansas. Many dream of launching their own mobile app companies, says Russ Hanna, who runs the program.

Designing games is a lot harder than playing them, Hanna notes. The technical track requires physics, calculus, logic and philosophy: Half of the technical-track students quit after the first semester.

Not all games are pure entertainment. A “serious game design” class teaches students how to create educational and training games, “such as simulations for teaching surgery or games aimed at improving the memory of Alzheimer’s patients.”

Several JCCC students are developing a game about building a pioneer community for the Johnson County Museum.

Many students plan to earn a bachelor’s degree. It’s difficult to land a job without one, Hanna says. “If you have a good portfolio and can show you can build a game, that’s a really strong statement.”

With many game companies in town, Austin Community College (ACC) in Texas started teaching game development about 10 years ago. ACC’s Game Development Institute, enrolls 180 students and graduates 30 to 50 every year.

In recent years, game companies were hiring students before they graduated, but that has leveled off, and the program’s completion rate has increased, says Garry Gaber, a professor of visual communications.

Game development students at ACC can specialize in art, design, programming or 3D animation. Teams with students from all those branches come together to create a game as a final capstone project. Students specializing in design develop the concept, programmers help with the scriptwriting, students in visual arts create the look of the characters and animators apply animation to the art assets, Gaber said.

“Learning how to work on a team is at least as important as learning how to create those assets,” he said.

Several community colleges plan to use GG Interactive‘s game-development curriculum, which was developed for high schools. Students learn programming skills they can apply in other areas, says CEO Eric Preisz. The company also is working on games that teach customer service, criminal justice and career development.

Enrollment dips as jobs rebound

As the economy rebounds, community college enrollment has gone from boom to bust. Enrollment is down at community colleges in Maryland and Virginia, reports the Washington Post.

“The truth of the matter is that during the recession, we were the economic recovery plan for a lot of Virginia families,” said Jeffrey Kraus, assistant vice chancellor for public relations for the Virginia Community College System.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that community college enrollment nationwide fell 3 percent in fall 2013, similar to the previous year’s decline.

At Montgomery College, the largest community college in Maryland, enrollment fell by 5 percent. The college is back to the number of students enrolled in 2010.

In Virginia, Southwest Virginia Community College has lost 30 percent of its peak enrollment. However, Northern Virginia Community College — grown by nearly 6 percent.

NVCC President Robert G. Templin Jr. said the school “has made a concerted effort over the last eight or nine years” to reach out to students who might be the first in their families to go to college. Many are from minority, immigrant or low-income families in Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun and Arlington counties. “We help them navigate the higher education landscape, which is pretty difficult if no one in your family has ever gone,” Templin said.

NVCC also is a major provider of transfer students to the state’s four-year institutions, including nearby George Mason University.

Many people don’t know that certificates or two-year degrees in certain fields can be a steppingstone to a well-paying career, said Jeffrey Kraus, spokesman for the Virginia Community College System.  “We need to go out and be talking to people who otherwise are not hearing the message of higher education,” he said. “Part of it is breaking through that ‘bachelor’s or bust’ mentality that a lot of folks have.”

Enrollment declines have forced Kansas community colleges to cut salaries, benefits and hiring, reports the Kansas City Star.

The economic fall and rise has made budgeting “so unpredictable,” said Johnson County Community College President Joe Sopcich in announcing $3.7 million in budget cuts. “Our projections calling for annual increases in enrollment and state aid (this year) were overly optimistic and unrealistic,” he said.

Community colleges go international

The community college mission has international appeal, reports Community College Times.

Valencia College (Florida) is helping Saudi Arabia’s all-female Princess Noura University develop a new women’s community college. The award-winning college also is partnering with institutions in the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands.

Valencia also has worked with Puerto Rico’s Ana G. Mendez University on a police training program.

Montgomery County Community College (Pennsylvania) created an articulation agreement  with a university in South Korea. Montgomery County students will be able to study abroad — and even earn a bachelor’s degree.

In Wisconsin, Gateway Technical College is working with Ecole Supérieure de Technologie in Oujda, Morocco, to promote entrepreneurial principles.

Kansas’ Johnson County Community College has faculty and student exchange programs with institutions in Russia, China, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Seminole State College of Florida . . . signed a five-year agreement with Basic Health Care College of Fredericia-Vejle-Horsens in Denmark. Faculty and students will get a better idea of how healthcare works in other countries.

Elgin Community College (Illinois) celebrated International Week with shows, concerts, dancing, forums and a parade, reports the Courier News.
Greek belly dancer DimitrMouzakis Chicago performs ElgCommunity College Wednesday as part school's celebrati'International Week.' | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media
College President David Sam, a native of Ghana, donned a colorful African robe and led more than 20 foreign students in a fashion parade.

“At any one time, we have about 90 international students here,” said Lauren Nehlsen, manager of ECC’s international student services. “By 2018, we hope to have about 200 on campus.”

ECC also sends students abroad: Some go to Cuernevaca, Mexico to study the Spanish language and Mexican culture. Others study Chinese languages and culture and international business at schools in China.

Carlos Parra came to ECC on a student visa to study computer science. He lives with a volunteer host family through a program called International Student Home Stay.

The festivities included a belly dance performance by Dimitra Mouzakis of Chicago.

Entrepreneurship for all

Entrepreneurship isn’t just for educational elites, reports Community College Week. Innovation Fund America — a joint project of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Ohio’s Lorain County Community College — is helping open-access colleges back local entrepreneurs.

Lorain’s foundation founded the IFA in 2007 as Northeast Ohio struggled to replace manufacturing jobs.

The IFA offers support to new and young businesses through pre-seed stage access to capital, intensive coaching and mentoring, with internship and educational opportunities for students. Since its founding, the IFA has invested nearly $6.5 million in about 100 companies, creating more than 300 jobs and providing more than 150 paid internships for LCCC students

The IFA will fund pilots at Catawba Valley Community College (NorthCarolina), Long Beach City College (California) and Johnson County Community College (Kansas).

Kauffman focuses on entrepreneurship education. The idea is catching on, reports Community College Week. The National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship, founded in 2002, now counts more than 300 college members.

Catawba Valley’s community has been hit hard by the collapse of furniture manufacturing and textile mills. The college is moving from job training to job creation.

Last month, the college announced the start of Innovation Fund North Carolina, which is planning to award $1.2 million in grants and loans to high-tech startups across the state over the next year. The future of the state economy, said college President Gordon Hinshaw, now depends on new business startups and small businesses. The grants will focus on startups related to agriculture, advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology.

Money will go to businesses in the “pre-seed” stage, those that have exhausted their personal resources, don’t have investors or venture capital backing but need capital to grow. . . . Businesses must agree to intense coaching and mentoring and agree to take on students for paid internships.

Workforce development experience makes community colleges a natural place for entrepreneurship initiatives, Hinshaw said. “Our boots are on the ground every day. We are charged with making connections with our citizens. That’s our job.”

Cooking is hot in Kansas

Culinary arts is hot at Johnson County Community College (Kansas), reports the Wichita Eagle. With 700 students, JCCC has the largest culinary apprenticeship program in the country. A new Hospitality & Culinary Academy is so modern “it’s almost like walking on the deck of the Starship Enterprise,” says Mark Webster, president of the Greater Kansas City Chefs’ Association.

Students can earn an associate degree of applied science and sous chef certification in three years, with lots of on-the-job training. Or they can go for an associate degree and culinarian certification in food and beverage management.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growing demand for chefs and head cooks. “The food service industry has really rebounded, and more people are eating out than ever before,” says Lindy Robinson, dean of the college’s business division.

 Enter the main doors of the lobby, and to the left there’s a glass-walled innovation kitchen where JCCC’s student culinary team already has started practicing for its upcoming competition in South Korea. To the right, doors slide open to reveal a 75-seat demonstration kitchen in a theater with a video production room so classes with master chefs can be taped and broadcast on the college’s cable channel.

In the “garde manger,” or cold foods culinary lab, a hook-and-chain pulley system is suspended from a reinforced ceiling. The support beams are strong enough to hang a 350-pound side of beef – Exhibit A in a newly offered butchering class that will emphasize utilization from nose to tail.

Indoor smokers and a 4-foot grill plus patio space to accommodate outdoor cooking give students a better understanding of the techniques behind grilling, smoking and barbecuing.

. . . The cooking labs are set up so 32 students at a time can “work the line,” a simulation of a real-life restaurant environment. The addition of a blast freezer allows pastry students to quickly cool their petit fours and ice them with fondant in a single class period, a time-saving technique typically used in the industry. The new commercial wok gives students the opportunity to explore Asian cuisine in greater depth.

Private culinary schools may charge $40,000 or more for an associate degree. Community colleges typically charge one-tenth that, says Michael McGreal of the American Culinary Federation, who heads the culinary department at Joliet Junior College in Illinois.

College museums draw donors

Community college museums can “raise the college’s profile, help attract donors, strengthen ties to the community and enhance educational programs,” writes Community College Times.

A museum at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Kansas focuses on contemporary and Native American art.

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories, some of them hundreds of years old.

Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art + Design presents exhibitions of notable artists and complements the college’s art galleries.

The Dinosaur Museum at Mesalands Community College in New Mexico combines fossils with artwork.

JCCC’s art museum has “brought extraordinary national and international visibility to this campus,” said Bruce Hartman, director of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. “An enormous number of people have come to campus that otherwise wouldn’t have set foot here,” Hartman said. “Some of those people have become donors or we’ve been able to otherwise engage them.”

Actor Vincent Price, known for his roles in horror films such as “The Fly,” donated 2,000 works of art to what’s now known as the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Now part of ELAC’s Performing and Fine Arts Complex, VPAM’s inaugural show in the new building featured eight ELAC alumni who have become well-known artists.