Western Michigan University’s Graphic and Printing Science Program Shares Its COVID-19 Strategy
This is a continuation of my series on schools having unique graphic communication online teaching and learning approaches, and particularly for dealing with COVID-19.
This article features Western Michigan University’s Graphic and Printing Science Bachelors degree, Masters Degrees and Ph. D. programs, some of the most needed but “under-the-radar” programs in the graphic communication field. An accelerated Masters degree program was recently introduced.
Located in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Western Michigan University’s Graphic and Printing Science programs are focused on, in the words of Professor Lois Lemon, Master Faculty Specialist,
“JOBS, JOBS and JOBS! Our program is unique because we have employers actively seeking our students for internships and jobs before they graduate.”
The program has existed for over 60 years, it is well established, and recognized by the industry and by peer institutions. The curriculum includes printing and paper fundamentals, graphic communication management, color management, mailing, packaging, and elective courses. For over fifty years, the Printing Advisory Committee (PAC) has been serving as the industrial advisory board and helping the program by providing financial resources, advice, scholarships, and internships, as well as pre- and post-graduation job opportunities for students.
Regardless of the degree conferred, undergraduate or graduate, the emphasis at Western Michigan University is educating students to enter the graphic communication job market with the level of degree received. Hence, the emphasis for job preparation is for management and technical positions in the wide array of commercial and specialty printing, packaging, and publishing areas, or for research and product development for OEM’s, and for teaching positions that demand advanced degrees. A little known fact about Western Michigan University is that it is the only university in North America offering a Ph. D. in Paper and Printing Science. The emphasis of the Ph. D. program is on papermaking processes, paper coatings, paper recycling, and graphic and printing science technologies.
The Graphic and Printing Science program has doctoral graduates as professors at Ryerson University, Illinois University, Ball State University, and two professors at Cal Poly. Additionally, the program is presently hosting Dr. Bilge Altay, a Post Doctorial appointee from Turkey.
Dr. Xiaoying Rong, one of the two Cal Poly professors with a Ph. D. from Western Michigan, said:
"I was a Teaching Assistant for Ms. Lois Lemon for the first two years of my study at Western Michigan University. It was the first time I experienced the introductory course for Graphic and Printing Science students. The experience helped me to picture the content can be delivered effectively through various resources and hands-on experiences. During my study at Western Michigan University, I continuously build my research skills and teaching skills through the program. It lead me to the point where I am now."
Addressing COVID-19 and Online Interactive Teaching
Similar to nearly all universities in North America, Western Michigan is dealing with the difficulties caused by COVID-19; limited entrance of faculty, staff, and students to the physical facilities, online and distance teaching and learning, and the need to provide faculty with resources and rapid training for online teaching. One resource adopted by Western Michigan as well as 20 schools at all levels—high schools, technical schools, community colleges, and universities—is an interactive textbook, Introduction to Graphic Communication; the only book of its kind covering graphic communication technologies and processes (www.igcbook.com). The book is printed, but driven by Ricoh’s “Clickable Paper” app. It provides for videos, web links, chat rooms, and interaction capabilities among students, interaction between students and instructors, and more—all from a printed book. The book has become particularly popular in light of COVID-19 and the move by nearly all schools to online teaching and learning. It is also being promoted for corporate training.
Professor Lemon said:
“We focus on all facets of the print world that this fabulous book covers. It is perfect for online as well as in-class teaching. We want our Graphics and Printing Science grads to understand the business, art, and science of print. Color management, data analytics, variable data printing, and mailing and packaging are vital components to our ever-evolving program, and covered by this book. The book also meshes with Printing Industry of America’s Print is Everywhere campaign, addressing graphic communication industry segments.”
“Many of the videos in the book,” Lemon continued, “are ones that I used previously in my lectures! My students enjoy the videos and interactive lectures by industry experts. I will continue using and advocating for the book. The students like it because it has greater learning impact than their smartphones or tablets by themselves.”
Taking COVID-19 Very Seriously
Western Michigan University takes the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. Faculty, staff, and students are required by university mandate to wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking. They require an entrance badge from the university’s Health Center to enter buildings, indicating that they have not been in contact with or had a positive a COVID-19 test, or have symptoms or high temperature. All faculty and students must wipe down hands and all surfaces when entering labs and computer spaces, and disposing of wipes in special containers. Proper cleaning of labs is required between lab-use, and all faculty and students must wear clean and appropriate lab-wear.
Professor Lemon arranged for students not wishing to come to campus to receive required lab material by appointment. Most lab work has been modified for online completion.
The Graphic and Printing Science program at Western Michigan University was established in 1950 as Printing Marketing and Management, and was merged with the Paper Science and Engineering Department in 1989 to form the Department of Paper and Printing Science and Engineering. The paper program is unique in Michigan and is one of only a few similar programs in the nation. The Chemical Engineering program has its genesis in a decision by Western Michigan in 1997 to expand engineering programs to include all of the “classical” engineering disciplines. In 2012, the university Board of Trustees approved a name change to the Department of Chemical and Paper Engineering, making it the only department in the United States that combines papermaking, printing, and chemical engineering. Right from the beginning, all three of the programs were tailored to prepare career-ready graduates.
For more information on Graphic and Printing Science at Western Michigan University Contact: Lois.firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Harvey R. Levenson is Professor Emeritus and former Department Head of Graphic Communication at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. His research and teaching specialties are communication, intellectual property, media, printing, and technology. He is often called upon as an Expert Witness in these areas. Contact him at email@example.com