How UT Dallas’ ATEC Is Turning Its Students Into Animation and Game Design Rock Stars 

Animation and game design is booming—and UTD is on the forefront. Here's how its School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication has become a national leader. ATEC is producing graduates who go on to work for top companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Gearbox Software, id software, Disney, and 900lbs.

There’s a huge demand in the field of animation and game design, according to UTD’s Tim Lewis. That’s especially apparent in Dallas-Fort Worth, and he says it’s only going to continue.

Lewis is an assistant professor of instruction in The University of Texas at Dallas’ School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC)—a multidisciplinary academic research school with programs that build upon the creative disciplines of science, technology, art, engineering, and management.

Students and faculty at ATEC collectively work on “Intentional Future-Making,” which aims to explore the evolution of media and technology to cultivate how we live, work, and play.

A big part of that is the animation and game design program.

“The gaming industry is growing extremely fast,” Lewis said in a UTD blog post. “In addition, the skills we teach for game development are used—and often demanded—in architectural visualization, simulation, marketing, film, and more.”

Timothy Lewis [Photo: UTD]

 
 

The program has emerged as one of the best in the country, its leadership says, and graduates are increasingly filling positions at some of the industry’s top companies.

The Princeton Review recently listed UT Dallas’ game design track as No. 20 among undergraduate programs and No. 15 among graduate programs, and its animation area of study came in at No. 29 in the U.S., according to Animation Career Review.

Graduates are employed at industry pioneers like Blizzard Entertainment, Gearbox Software, id software, and 900lbs. Some have gone on to build interactive software for corporations and design backgrounds on shows like Disney’s The Mandalorian.

[Photo: UTD/ATEC]

Recently, ATEC’s animation and game tracks combined—and according to Lewis, the blended model works well. “The goal of the program is to ensure that our students exit with the ability to not just be an employee of a company,” he says, “but to understand the common games-development pipeline and to be able to go out there and create their own games as well.”

[Photo: UTD]

The foundation of the program is technical: art, sound, design, and programming. Instructors approach coursework from varying perspectives, with the intent to show students how the pieces can fit together.

But not everything is technical, according to Adam Chandler, an assistant professor of instruction in ATEC. There are also classes that teach game design using non-computer components.

An important aspect, though, is networking. ATEC encourages the future game developers to collaborate outside of class or meet in student groups, such as UT Dallas’ Student Game Developer Association.

Adam Chandler [Photo: UTD/ATEC]

“These are places where they build games as a team, have competitions, or put on events with industry speakers,” Chandler says. “The ATEC faculty help foster these kinds of communities, because if students are using the skills that we teach in class for outside-of-class activities, then they’re really bringing these skills back into the world, and that’s where the good stuff happens.”

[Photo: UTD]

Now leading the program to new heights is Dr. Nils Roemer, the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies, who was recently appointed ATEC’s interim dean.

Roemer joined UT Dallas in 2006 from the University of Southampton in England. Since 2015, he’s led the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, and was named interim dean of the School of Arts and Humanities in 2019.

At ATEC, he most looks forward to the school’s new animation suite.

“I see this facility as one that will add to ATEC’s expertise in animation production, creative research and curriculum development,” he said. “Faculty and students can now better showcase animation’s potential as a premier emerging visual-communication medium.”

[Photo: UTD/ATEC]

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