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Partnerships Create Pathways to Success

Graduate Megan Horner at Commencement.
Rebecca A. Eckland

2021 witnessed the first two Graphic Arts and Media Technology four-year degree graduates from an innovative partnership between TMCC and NSC: Katelyn Brooke and Megan Horner, who walked at both TMCC’s commencement ceremony and the ceremony held three weeks later at Nevada State College.

TMCC Graphic Arts and Media Technologies (GAMT) Department Chair Ron Marston and Professor Dan Bouweraerts went the extra [few hundred] miles to celebrate the first graduates of the 3+1 bachelor’s program made possible through a partnership with Nevada State College (NSC). They were joined by NSC GAMT Program Coordinator AnnaSheila Paul who also made a point to attend both events to celebrate the accomplishment of these two graduates.  

Two instructors and two student standing at night in Las Vegas.

TMCC GAMT Professors Ron Marston and Dan Bouweraerts pose in front of Las Vegas’s Eiffel Tower with graduates Megan Horner and Katelyn Brooke.

“We really wanted to give these students the royal treatment,” said Paul. “The students and their families were given a tour of the NSC campus by Vice Provost of Student Success Dr. Gregory Robinson and Dr. Adam Davis, Chair of the Humanities Department. And we really wanted them to feel a part of this ceremony... because up until that point, it was really abstract to them: they were taking classes from NSC but at the TMCC Dandini Campus. So, when they were shown the NSC campus—which is beautiful—I think that made a difference because it made them feel like they were a part of that campus community, too.”

Neither student had been to Las Vegas before, so in addition to attending the formal commencement ceremony, the three GAMT instructors also took the two graduates on a tour of the famous Las Vegas Strip, where the graduates and faculty completed a quick study of logos while visiting the iconic sites on the city’s main street. 

“This will probably continue for the next set of students that we have,” said Paul. “I’m going to insist on it. I think it definitely makes graduates feel like they are a part of something. This program is a true partnership.”

Partnerships that Foster Student Success

While TMCC has many partnerships with institutions outside of the State of Nevada (and even with other countries around the world), those partnerships among the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) family offer TMCC students pathways to high-demand professional careers in diverse fields from Graphic Design to Allied Health, to name a few examples. 

Through a partnership with the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), students interested in becoming Radiation Therapists can begin their journey at TMCC. “This partnership started approximately three years ago,” said Brooke Chapman, Clinical Director and Instructor in the Radiation Therapy program at CSN. “There was only one qualified student applicant that first fall semester.” Yet, the Radiation Therapy Technology (RTT) Program witnessed its third cohort graduate and take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) National Board Exam at the end of the Spring 2021 semester. 

Students who begin the RTT Program at TMCC complete all the prerequisite classes before applying to the limited-entry program at CSN. “This is the only program in Nevada,” said Chapman. “Students start clinical internships during their second semester, after being accepted to the program. Students in the Reno area attend live classes, taught from Las Vegas, at a telecommunications classroom on the TMCC campus.”

Additionally, local clinical sites play a key partnership role in educating and preparing students in this program. “These clinical sites have been pleased with the quality of graduates [the program produces] and has offered jobs to many of our graduates,” said Chapman. In Fall 2021, the program will increase its capacity from three to four students thanks to assistance from the local clinical partners. The low number of students is due, in part, to the fact that the program is time-intensive and rigorous, training students to make what can be life and death decisions for their patients.

“This may seem like an extremely small number when you consider this is the only program of its type in Nevada, and there is no similar program in Arizona and only one in Utah. However, it is a very specialized profession. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are only 18,500 people in the profession. Yet, with an aging population, the need for therapists is expected to grow by 7% by 2029,” said Chapman.  

Another partnership with CSN provides students the opportunity in Surgical Technology through classes offered at the TMCC Dandini Campus that are taught by CSN instructors. It is the only Surgical Technology program that serves students in Northern Nevada. The partnership, which has been in place for four years, has grown to offer ten students at TMCC an opportunity to pursue this profession. Additionally, the program now offers a Sterile Processing Certificate.

The success of these partnerships, said Chapman, come as a result of support from administration and professional organizations. “We have had amazing support from TMCC Dean Julie Ellsworth and great help from Toni Hippert and Manuela Dobbert. Our clinical sites (Renown, Northern Nevada Medical Center, and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center) have been very generous. It is important to know that our students in Northern Nevada attend their skills lab courses in an actual operating room donated by Renown Hospital, which gives them one of the best learning environments in the country.”  

Partnerships Design Unique and Innovative Pathways

Even though the partnership between TMCC and NSC has enabled students to pursue a four-year degree pathway since Fall 2018, the idea for a 4-year degree program in Graphic Design is much older. “Twenty years ago, I designed a four-year degree program for TMCC, but it sat in my desk drawer for 17 years,” said GAMT Professor Dan Bouweraerts. “At that time, community colleges weren’t traditionally offering four-year degrees.” 

These days, the GAMT program offers three tracks for students, by far the most options of any program in Northern Nevada. Students can choose from Graphic Design, Motion Graphics (video and animation) and Web and User Interface. Within those options, students can choose to complete a 30-credit certificate, an associate of applied science (2-year) degree, a transferable associate of arts degree, an advanced certificate (offered after students have completed an associate degree), or the 3+1 Bachelor of Arts degree.

“What I really like about our partnership—and the GAMT program—is that it is not a traditional program in the sense that unless you complete four years, you get nothing,” said Paul. “Instead, you can complete a certificate first, then an associate degree, then the advanced certificate in the third year, and if you want to add another year at some point for a bachelor’s degree, students have that option. They don’t have to complete the entire degree program at one time.”

The depth and quality of instruction comes from GAMT faculty’s wide breadth of experience, which includes several decades of working as professionals in the field as well as dedicated time in the classroom. While students have much to gain even from the two-year associate degree, the four-year degree made possible through the 3+1 program and partnership with NSC gives students an edge in a competitive job market. 

“The BA makes graduates more competitive in the job market,” explained Bouweraerts. “The local industry knows our program, and they hire our graduates. But, if you leave Reno, an associate degree is not going to be as valuable.”

The four-year program also produces graduates who have a depth of knowledge around design, including specialized knowledge into art history, philosophy, and other “higher-level concepts” that build upon the technologies and techniques that are refined in the first two years of the program. 

“Students learn about the intersectionality of race, class, and gender, visual literacy—those kinds of topics that there isn’t time to cover in a two-year program,” said Paul, who teaches classes in the fourth year of the program, covering topics that include visual literacy, the business of visual media, and the applied theory in media production to name a few examples.

The unique partnership between TMCC and NSC has made all the difference for GAMT 3+1 graduates Megan Horner and Katelyn Brooke, who experienced the best of both worlds: an intimate community college setting that opened doors to the larger concepts that drive the industry into which they will become working professionals.

For more information about these and other institutional partnerships, contact TMCC’s Office of Academic Advising at 775-673-7062.