LSU Digital Program to Begin

LSU students will be able to minor in digital media beginning with the fall semester, the result of a two-year effort by the university to prepare students for careers in emerging fields such as animation, video games, electronic music and digital art.

LSU approved the Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research Initiative in spring 2008 as one of its multidisciplinary hiring initiatives, bringing together faculty, researchers and professionals to create a concentrated academic research program in digital media.

Stephen David Beck, a professor in the LSU School of Music and leader of the AVATAR Initiative, said a week hasn’t gone by over the years the group has been working on the initiative that a student hasn’t asked if there was a gaming curriculum at the school. Also, he said, the game design class LSU has been doing with the University of Illinois at Chicago for two years and a beginning computer music course have always filled up.

“I have absolutely no doubt that this will be a very popular program,” he said.

With the exception of the capstone course at the end of the program, the classes that make up the minor are all already taught across five or six departments, including digital arts, computer programming and engineering, digital signal processing and screenwriting. The initiative even resurrected a few computer graphics courses that haven’t been taught in a while.

Beck said the curriculum will be valuable to the economy and make LSU more competitive as well, with digital media becoming more and more a part of business activity in general. He noted it is one of the top sectors pegged for development in the state’s “blue ocean” economic development strategy of targeting industries with greater potential.

Also important, he said, is that when he and others involved in the effort interviewed people in the gaming industry, they said one of the most important things is finding people who can work together with other people.

“Digital media is all about the interdisciplinary approach to solving problems,” he said, noting the classes often have computer science students, musicians, artists and computer engineers, for example, all working together on a project.

He said that while the goal is to have students join the industry, preferably at a company in-state, much of what they learn has benefits beyond the confines of the gaming world.

Students can enroll in the minor through one of two thematic tracks: an arts oriented track through the College of Art & Design or a technology-oriented track through the College of Engineering. Courses from computer science, electrical and computer engineering, music, art, English and mass communication are part of the curriculum, along with a new capstone course, where students from both tracks will work collaboratively on group projects.

Information about the program and a list of required courses are at Students who are interested in obtaining the digital media minor should contact AVATAR Initiative Coordinator Lea Anne Couvillion at (225) 578-5433 or to arrange a meeting.

To officially kick off the minor, AVATAR Initiative will host a series of lectures in the spring and fall semesters, the first taking place March 25 featuring Daryl Holt, the chief operating officer of EA Sports Tiburon Studios in Orlando, Fla.

Holt will discuss his own career path in the video game industry, and will advise students on what they need to learn if they want to pursue jobs as game developers or designers.