Since graduating with a degree in digital media design, or DMD, from Florida Gulf Coast University in May of 2021, Angela Humphrey has applied her knowledge to a variety of opportunities.
“I focus on animation game design and 3D modeling. I went out and became an adjunct instructor in game design at Wake Tech, (that) was my first job out of college. So, I went straight from being a student to teaching college students,” she says. “I also worked for a few months as a freelance technical artist at Devster games, and I worked on a few shipped games doing some freelance work for visual effects. And right now, I teach game design for kids at a company called Game U while also doing grad school full-time at Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy.”
Seeing how Humphrey and others were putting their digital media design degrees to work, FGCU officials concluded that the DMD program could provide business skills and business opportunities. That realization was the impetus for the university to move the DMD program from the Bower School of Music & the Arts to the Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurship and design cross over so much more than people think. A lot of what designers do is add value to businesses and companies, and if I had one issue that design students would approach me about the most, it’s ‘How do I start my own company? How do I turn these skills so that I’m working for myself and not for somebody else?’” says Professor Michael Salmond, program coordinator for FGCU’s digital design program. “That is exactly what entrepreneurship is all about. So by crossing over and becoming part of the School of Entrepreneurship, we’re giving design students access to how to get venture capital or how to write business plans. And then also, the entrepreneurship students who are on the other side of things say, ‘I’ve got a great idea for a business. How do I approach the marketing? How do I approach logo design?’ The synergy is so obvious when you say it.”
The other benefit of mixing digital media and entrepreneurship is that doing so constantly allows both elements to be exposed to emerging ideas and technologies. To enhance the design and entrepreneurial opportunities that may arise as technology evolves, Salmond said, FGCU’s digital media design program will always be encouraging interaction and looking toward the future.
“Our focus is really on the technology; we’re a very forward-looking program. We have traditional aspects of graphic design, but we look mostly at things like video games, interaction design, animation, the entertainment business, augmented reality, mixed reality video games and that sort of thing. So our students are very diverse on the technological side,” he says. “What I’m hoping will happen … is our students will want to take these skills and start developing their own businesses. That’s the sort of thing that the entrepreneurship school, faculty and the students really give us that we didn’t have before.”
In addition to creating more opportunities, FGCU leaders also want to encourage entrepreneurship and digital design students to be engaged with the community. That will be the goal of the Ain Digital Design Hub, a new facility within the School of Entrepreneurship made possible by a recent donation from Mark Ain, the founder and former CEO of global workforce management provider Kronos.
“We’re thinking outside the box on how to grow and how to develop things that add value to our community. [The Ain Digital Design Hub] is going to be a great opportunity for our students and for the businesses in this community,” says Sandra Kauanui, director of FGCU’s Daveler & Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship. “If we’re working altogether, it’s just going to create conditions where … if students want to start a business, they can do it. If they want to go work for a company, we can help them do that, as well. I think having the opportunity to do that will make a difference for our students [toward] hopefully staying in Southwest Florida, so we can keep our entrepreneurial endeavors continuing and our business communities growing. And keep economic development going in this area.”
Ultimately, while FGCU’s goal in combining digital media design with entrepreneurship is to give students more access to the skills that will help them thrive after graduation, a secondary goal is to produce graduates who can bring greater value to businesses. Beyond that, Salmond also believes the synergies between digital design and entrepreneurship students could also lead to even bigger things.
“There are million-dollar ideas out there that aren’t happening because a design student isn’t having a casual conversation with an entrepreneurship student and going, ‘Well, I could help you with that,’ and they say, ‘But I can help you with that,’ and the next big thing is born,” he says. “That hasn’t been happening because we’re siloed in these different areas. But now it will happen—and I think that’s the really exciting thing about it.”