The first graduates of Penn State’s new Digital Multimedia Design program receive bachelor’s degrees this week. Their studies are more relevant than ever, according to the program’s lead faculty coordinator.

“There has never been a more important time to learn how to apply creative design approaches to solve big and small issues facing the world,” said Michael Collins, lead faculty coordinator for the interdisciplinary program, offered through Penn State World Campus by the College of Arts and Architecture, College of Communications, and College of Information Sciences and Technology.

The first recipients of the new bachelor of design degree, which is offered only online, have interests that cover a broad range of topics, including web and user experience, product and service design, code-based art, 2D and 3D animation, concept art for video games, and real-time interactivity, Collins said.

Kelsey Ann Barksdale, 26, of O’Fallon, Illinois, is making her first trip to the University Park campus to take part in commencement ceremonies.

Barksdale had finished community college and was trying to decide what to do next when she discovered the digital media design degree at Penn State.

“I was looking for a degree that was a mixture of art and computer-based skills,” she said. “I saw DMD and said, ‘That sounds like exactly what I want.’”

Barksdale is looking for jobs in digital marketing and social media in the St. Louis area. She is particularly interested in branding and print design, and said she expects the 3-D modeling, animation, photography, and photo editing skills she learned to be helpful on the job market.

“I definitely feel prepared,” she said. “I’ve learned so much.”

Barksdale said online learning suited her, both because of the flexibility it gave her in scheduling and because “I’m kind of a shy person in real life,” she said. “Online is just a lot easier for me.”

Michelle Carlos, 27, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said the online program allowed her to continue working at her retail job and “have a life.” Carlos, who is also making her first trip to University Park for commencement, is applying for jobs in video production after graduation.

More than 150 students are enrolled in the program, which has more than tripled in size since it began in the summer of 2017. Anna Divinsky, online coordinator for the School of Visual Arts, said she was thrilled to see the number of majors grow so rapidly.

“It's been exciting to watch their progression and creative growth,” she said.

Many students have work or family obligations that make it difficult for them to travel to a physical campus, Collins said.

“This program is a really great option, as it affords them the ability to make career changes or to pursue a more creative path without disrupting their lives,” he said.

Career options for graduates could include working as a digital designer, web developer, art director, public relations specialist, advertising manager, or media relations professional.

Collins said digital media design skills “are a means to create compelling work that allows us to participate in conversations, respond, entertain, inform, and have positive impact — manipulating the world around us for the better.”

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