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College Introduces One-of-a-Kind Information Visualization Program

Master of Professional Studies degree (MPS) in Information Visualization, in development for 2012

Posted 12.30.11 by MICA Communications

David Gracyalny, Dean of MICA’s School for Professional and Continuing Studies

When creative professionals talk, David Gracyalny makes sure he listens. After all, as dean of MICA's School for Professional and Continuing Studies, it's essential that he understands their professional needs in order to craft relevant academic programs. Recently, he heard the same refrain from artists and designers-to advance in their careers, they need new skills that will enhance their creative talent, including skills related to emerging technologies and market demands.

The Master of Professional Studies degree (MPS) in Information Visualization, in development for 2012, is a response to that need. MICA's new graduate offering gives artists and designers the training necessary to translate their existing skills to the visualization industry. It is also open to non-creative professionals who want a better understanding of design and how visual communication works, including those currently employed in fields where management of complex data is essential-such as architecture, national security, disaster management, medicine, and public health.

"This is the first such program at an art and design school. As such, we bring a unique perspective to what students will learn," Gracyalny explained. "The curriculum has a strong emphasis on the visual and creative aspects of the field, and it goes beyond the formulaic design currently seen in the visualization industry. We want our students to think creatively and present data in compelling ways that will be much more interesting to read and more useful to the fields they'll work in." He added, "Another defining aspect is that the program takes both a multi- and inter-disciplinary approach. In addition to the conceptual and creative aspects involved in information visualization, the MPS will extensively cover technical, cognitive, and content-specific features."

Students will be immersed in visualization concepts, issues, and practices, leaving the highly specialized program with a deep understanding of visualization theory and the principles of application, user interface design, visualization software and hardware, statistical analysis, and more. Though the program requires three short residencies on MICA's campus, the majority of study will take place online. Residencies are comprised of five-day technical and production oriented workshops. Online intensives build on the residencies with application-specific, integrative, and summative training, while online sessions address conceptual, cognitive, and technological aspects of visualization.

"Working artists and designers want programs that fit into their lifestyles, and they want these programs to fit very specific professional goals," Gracyalny said. "In response, MICA is offering programming focused on very specialized skills that will enable students to find a path for success in numerous professions, and we're allowing them to access these programs online so they can maintain their responsibilities outside of the learning environment. Both the content in these programs and the method of content delivery gives our students a competitive edge-and further MICA's reputation as a pioneer in graduate programming."