Some of you will have been attuned to my recent travels, much of which have been focused on cementing and celebrating our global reputation in the field of Animation. Specifically, I was in Ireland two weeks ago celebrating the first cohort of students in a graduate pathway program with the Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT) in Dún Laoghaire. This partnership facilitates access to a Master’s level credential for Sheridan graduates of our Postgraduate Certificate programs in Computer Animation or Digital Creature Animation.
Then, this weekend, I was in Los Angeles with a group of Animation students and their faculty mentor, Stephen Barnes, to attend the Annie Awards, where their amazing third-year, group film — The Fox and the Pigeon — won in the category of Best Student Film. Described as the Oscar’s for Animation, their win was a significant accomplishment and I was so pleased to be there personally to see it happen. Finally, I’ll head back to Los Angeles for a dinner in February (before the Academy Awards) to celebrate Dean DeBlois, an alumnus of Animation whose work on the third instalment of the How to Train your Dragon trilogy earned him yet another nomination. On all three trips, I will have had the privilege of meeting with current students, alumni, and industry leaders.
The investment we’re making in travel and promotion to serve what is inarguably Sheridan’s premiere discipline is intended to advance a number of strategic objectives. First and foremost, I believe in the adage that ‘a rising tide floats all boats’. With thanks to the amazing faculty, staff, and students who have fuelled our reputation for excellence in Animation, our enviable global ranking affords Sheridan considerable leverage that goes well beyond the discipline and/or the Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design. (For more on the history of Animation, access this link.) In service to our entire learning community then, it’s my job to protect and promote that positioning as ‘best in class’.
Our success in Animation bolsters other programs by serving as a magnet for Creatives who are drawn to our student community, acclaimed faculty, and studio space. It serves other areas of acknowledged academic strength like Athletic Therapy, Creativity, Engineering, Skilled Trades, Applied Computing, Design, Illustration and Musical Theatre by opening doors, and serving as a launch pad for broader discussions with influencers, decision-makers and donors. It serves every academic program by amplifying Sheridan’s reputation and, by extension, driving positive enrolment and advancement outcomes.
The broad acclaim we’ve earned in this space also serves our commitment to providing graduates with unfettered access to graduate programming by enabling Sheridan to expand its offerings to include Masters degrees. This, in my opinion, holds true regardless of whether we choose to pursue the ability to offer that programming in the specific discipline of Animation. Quite simply, the fact that we’re broadly recognized — by the Ministry of Colleges & Universities, by industry, and by alumni — as being amongst the very best in the world gives us lift and influence. For one, it effectively and efficiently undermines any argument about academic quality as an obstacle to changing the regulatory and credential framework in Ontario. Of equal importance, however, it gives us a pulpit to argue that when a more advanced credential is being demanded by industry and/or the post-secondary institutions who teach that discipline at the undergraduate level, it should be delivered by the best faculty, who use the best pedagogy, available. Inarguably, in Animation, that means Sheridan and our colleagues in the Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design.
Sheridan has never been a learning community prone to self-aggrandizing. I have said for three years now, however, that achieving our aspirations will demand that we better trumpet what we do and why it matters. To that end, I’m managing some wicked jet lag.