Santa Monica College has announced its intent to submit a proposal to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Interaction Design, to the office of Brice W. Harris, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges.
In September 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill authored by Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) to allow 15 community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees, in response to an overwhelming demand for skilled workers in fields such as technology, health and science.
The legislation, Senate Bill 850, requires that the degree be unique – not duplicated at the California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC). It also requires that the proposed degree meet a local workforce need.
Harris called the overwhelming interest shown by community college districts “heartening.” So far about half of the system – 36 districts including Santa Monica – have expressed intent to apply to be part of the pilot.
SMC’s proposal for a Baccalaureate degree in Interaction Design, also referred to as “User Experience Design,” comes in direct response to the needs of Los Angeles’s tech industry – especially that of Silicon Beach, in the city’s Westside region.
Silicon Beach is home to over 500 tech start-ups and also includes major companies such as Google, Yahoo, and EdgeCast Networks. SMC is located right in the heart of Silicon Beach.
“This is an extension of our efforts to create pathways for our students to exciting careers that will pay them well, and a beautiful partnership with the local tech industry,” said Dr. Jennifer Merlic, SMC’s Dean of Instruction. “They’ve told us that this is an area where they have an overwhelming need –where they want to hire our students, at the BA level.”
There are thousands of jobs available in this emerging and rapidly evolving field in LA County alone for individuals with an “interaction design” skills set, focused on how to balance functionality and aesthetics into something that works for the end user in the digital world.
Only two private universities in California – Art Center College of Design and California College of the Arts – offer a bachelor’s level degree in this new field of interaction design. The programs at these two universities cost around $40,000 – per year. If approved by the California Community College’s Board of Governors, a student could earn a degree at SMC at a cost of just over $10,000 –for the entire program.
“SB 850 is a game changer…students now have another door that can lead to a quality, affordable four-year degree,” said Senator Block.
SMC has robust certificate programs in both graphic and web design with a large number of students enrolled in the lower division core courses of the proposed degree. The college has the facilities and resources needed to offer this degree – including the Academy of Entertainment and Technology – highly qualified faculty with industry expertise and strong involvement from the local tech industry.
SMC holds a record, for the 24th straight year, as the #1 community college for transfers to the UC system and also transferred more African-American and Latino/Chicano students to the UC than any other community college. It is the only Southern California community college district to propose a degree in the area of Information Technology.
“I look forward to working with the districts to create world-class programs that graduate highly trained and marketable students,” said Harris.
The Board of Governors will announce the selected proposals on Jan. 21, 2015.