As a senior ATEC student in the animation concentration, I have taken my fair share of both ATEC and A&H classes. I have two minors within the A&H school, Visual Arts and Asian Studies. After taking all of these classes, I can say with certainty that I am happy and hopeful for the ATEC and A&H merger. As a disclaimer, I would like to mention that the ATEC degree plan has changed many times after my degree plan was created. My current experiences may not be applicable to newer students.
My goal is to become a storyboarder and visual development artist in the animation industry. One of the classes that students with my career in mind will take is Visual Story 1 (VS1). The problem that the professors came across while teaching VS1 is that a lot of the students don’t have the necessary drawing skills to complete the workload of that class, so rather than learning about storyboarding right off the bat, we spent about a third of the semester doing perspective drills. These drawing issues were supposed to be addressed in the mandatory Drawing Foundations class that A&H offers, but the course content varies so widely between instructors that it’s hard for students to gain a similar base level of drawing skills. When I took VS1, Drawing Foundations was a prerequisite to the course, but now only Animation and Game Fundamentals is the prerequisite which, when I took it back in 2019, had no drawing instruction. As it stands, there are no current prerequisites that would aid in providing students the necessary drawing skills to complete assignments at the quality the professors are expecting.
Professor Todd Fechter (ATEC) said that he and Professor Sean McComber (ATEC) were planning on possibly doing an online drawing fundamental course for ATEC students to address this lack of common ground. With this new merger, it is my hope that Professor Fechter’s and Professor McComber’s problems with Drawing Foundations can be addressed. Now that the schools have merged, it will be easier for A&H and ATEC professors to communicate with each other as to the needs of their respective students.
While graphic design is not my passion, I also saw the struggle for students who wanted to study graphic design with the previous division of the schools. When I enrolled in ATEC at UTD, there were only four pathways: Animation, Games, Design & Production, and Emerging Communications. Students were put into the Design & Production pathway by default and had to apply to enter the Animation and Games pathways. For students wanting to study graphic design, Design & Production was their primary pathway. However, all the required classes for this pathway were ATEC classes that weren’t outright graphic design classes. A&H was the school which offered all of the explicit graphic design classes.
There was a rather large disconnect as to what art programs A&H students versus ATEC students knew how to use. Just last semester I took Typography with Professor Lorraine Tady. Most of our assignments were traditional, done with physical materials such as pencil and paper. While there’s nothing wrong with traditional mediums, the art of typography has been largely digitized within the past 30 years. Professor Tady’s reason for having mainly traditional assignments was due to the fact that it was hard to ascertain what programs students between A&H and ATEC knew how to use. For older ATEC students, they only knew how to use Photoshop. Younger ATEC students may know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. Professor Tady cited that not many students in A&H had the background in digital programs to do the class with mostly digital mediums. I believe that with this merger, A&H professors can also modify existing ATEC classes, such as Computer Imaging, to include other digital programs that would better suit the A&H curriculum. This would highly benefit students in the ATEC Design and Production pathway and A&H Visual Arts majors that are more interested in graphic design. With the combination of the schools, hopefully a base level of digital art skills can be taught to the two groups of students.
All in all, this merger is great for students wanting to blend the illustrative and technological aspects of A&H and ATEC into a well-rounded program. Pursuing digital 2D art was difficult when one school pushed for traditional mediums and the other pushed for CGI. The reorganization of the schools allows for easier communication between professors that want to make their classes better.