The interdisciplinary major combines courses dealing with computers, art and media studies. Students hoping to strike it rich by founding the next successful software company now have a way to start traveling down that path while still at Penn. A semester-old major, called Digital Media Design, is intended to give students a foundation of knowledge in technology, graphic art and media studies. Officials expect students who graduate with a DMD degree to go into advertising, computer software design, special effects, Web page design or film animation. The program combines coursework from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Annenberg School for Communication and the Graduate School of Fine Arts to bring graphic art into the next millennium. "It was natural for these three components to fall together, literally, into a degree program," said Norman Badler, a professor of Computer and Information Science. Badler said the degree program is an important step for the Engineering School because it allows undergraduates to combine seemingly different disciplines into one field of study. So far, 17 undergraduates have enrolled in the program, and officials said the program has generated a much higher level of interest than originally anticipated. Students are required to take six Communication courses with an emphasis on visual communications, as well as six from Fine Arts, 11 Engineering classes and a few related classes in the Psychology and Mathematics departments. But the program extends beyond the classroom, as each student in DMD is expected to intern at a firm in a the multimedia industry. Badler said the excellence of the three schools strengthens the major. "There was a pre-existing strength at Penn in three areas of relevance -- in computer graphic technology in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, in design in the School of Fine Arts and in the understanding of communication and media in Annenberg," he explained. David Phillips, who coordinates the program, said he hopes the schools will eventually offer classes that are specifically geared toward DMD majors to complement the more general requirements. Such classes, he said, would "give more of a sense of focus" to the major and "enhance departmental and interschool awareness" of the degree. Phillips added that he also wants to require students to complete a special senior project that utilizes what they have learned. Also, instructors encourage students to attend lectures and discussion sessions with professionals in the fields of computer programming and animation and design. Last semester's speakers included Graham Walters, an executive at Pixar Animation, and Greg Eitzman, an engineer from Silicon Graphics. Engineering freshman Jason Muramoto said he plans to major in DMD. "I am really enthusiastic about the program, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun," Muramoto said. "Graham Walters' presentation was nifty. He had videos from the production of Toy Story and A Bug's Life. He walked us through the production process." Among those lecturers scheduled to visit the University this spring are Stanford University communications professor Cliff Nass and computer animator Chris Landreth.
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