Officials expect School of Digital Arts will grow media arts program, local industry



A student in WSU’s media arts program works with film lighting at Shocker Studios. The university announced on Wednesday that the program would be encompassed by a brand new School of Digital Arts.

Wichita State announced on Wednesday the creation of a new School of Digital Arts. Officials expect the move to grow WSU’s media arts program, as well as local industry. 

At its Wednesday meeting, the Kansas Board of Regents approved the university’s request to establish the new school, which will become the fourth school in the College of Fine Arts. 

The school will encompass all concentrations in the bachelor of applied arts (BAA) in media arts program, including animation, audio production, filmmaking and game design. The BAA program, housed at WSU South’s Shocker Studios, was established in 2017. 

Justin Rorabaugh, director of Shocker Studios, says the program has already exceeded five-year enrollment expectations in the last two years — with about 270 students. 

With that growth in mind, Rorabaugh said forming the new school sustains future growth and gives the media arts program a more concrete place at WSU.

“The formalization [of the School of Digital Arts] provides a greater permanency for students, faculty and staff, and community partners,” Rorabaugh said. “Having a formalized school structure also allows for an easier alignment within the existing university system.”

Student identity was also a driving factor behind the move, he said. 

“Students benefit through a stronger sense of belonging. Many have voted their excitement and pride to be part of the School of Digital Arts,” Rorabaugh said.

Ahead of the school’s formation, Rorabaugh said he and staff had already been exploring new media arts degree options. But the new school should help ease that process, he said. 

The new School of Digital Arts will not officially be designated until the next fiscal year, but university officials are working to release the course catalogue as soon as possible. WSU also wants to market the program to new students who may enroll in fall 2020. 

College of Fine Arts Dean Rodney Miller said the new school is a step toward supporting the media arts industry in the city and state. 

“What we are doing at Shocker Studios is nothing less than laying the groundwork for the establishment of a media technology industry in Wichita and greater Kansas,” he said. “This will both diversify and enhance the Wichita economy and the workforce we attract to this great metropolitan area.”

The university says media arts students have already had opportunities to work on projects for real-world clients, including Spirit AeroSystems, the Wichita Police Department — and Snoop Dogg.