New UCF Entertainment Academy will train students to develop game software

06/07/04

Video game leader Electronic Arts will partner with academy, set to open Fall 2005

ORLANDO, June 7, 2004 -- University of Central Florida students will learn how to design, program and test video games at a new academy that the university is starting with help from Electronic Arts, the world's leading interactive entertainment publisher.

Taught by experienced software programmers and artists, students at the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy will graduate well-prepared for jobs in an industry that's expanding in Central Florida. Electronic Arts' Tiburon studio, based in Maitland, plans to expand in Florida over the coming years.

"We think EA is a superb partner because of its deep commitment to training a workforce to create the next generation of interactive entertainment," said Sterling Van Wagenen, director of the UCF School of Film and Digital Media. "It's certainly going to elevate the quality of what we do in the school, and it's going to be a terrific opportunity for our students."

The opening of the new school, funded largely with a $4.2 million grant in the state budget that Gov. Jeb Bush signed May 28, comes at a time when the role of video games in the entertainment industry continues to grow. In the past five years, successful video games have spawned top movies, a reversal of the past trend of good movies leading to the production of video games based on them, Van Wagenen said.

Electronic Arts, which develops top sports games such as Madden NFL Football and NASCAR auto racing, will help create the curriculum for the new academy and will offer internships for UCF students and faculty. Some of the software company's employees will help teach classes at the new academy.

"This symbiotic relationship is an excellent example of the kinds of business partnerships UCF seeks in its efforts to support and boost the Central Florida economy," said Dan Holsenbeck, vice president of University Relations. "Of course, this relationship would not have been possible without the support of our area legislators who helped secure the money needed to create the academy."

EA's nine-year-old studio in Maitland has about 500 employees, including 350 software developers and 150 who test some of its biggest games. "EA hopes to rapidly grow the Orlando area studio, one of our five globally focused growth studios, in terms of new game franchises and employees in the coming years," said Rusty Rueff, EA's executive vice president of Human Resources.

"The UCF academy is something that will benefit the community," Rueff said. "At EA, we like the studio environment in Central Florida, but the high demand for skilled artists and engineers forces us today to bring talented people from other locations. In the future, we'd like to hire talent locally from UCF for these highly skilled positions."

The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, which will open in fall 2005, likely will be located in downtown Orlando and should produce about 100 graduates a year. Students, who are required to have undergraduate degrees in fields such as computer science, art or digital media before enrolling, can complete the program in about 16 months. They will receive graduate certificates, which allow for more flexibility and a condensed schedule compared with a master's degree. Because it is not a state degree-granting program, the academy will have a different fee structure.

Mike Moshell, head of the Digital Media Division of the School of Film and Digital Media, said students will be part of production teams during their studies at UCF and will work with faculty experienced in software design, production, art and a variety of other fields. Students will study for about 60 hours a week, including about 40 hours of lab work.

Admissions officials will look for students who are self-motivated and who have strong portfolios in computer modeling, art or other relevant subjects, Moshell said. The school plans to set up a career placement office to help students find jobs after they graduate.

UCF's School of Film and Digital Media, which enrolls about 1,100 undergraduate students, opened in summer 2003. The school is developing a program to offer master's degrees in film and digital media. The UCF Board of Trustees could vote this fall to begin offering those master's degrees. Go to http://sfdm.ucf.edu for more information about the school.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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