The I.T. Team asked our Fine Arts Department to guest blog about the many ways students acquire valuable technology skills through their courses.
“Having a diversity of perspectives leads to better decision-making, more relevant products, and makes work a whole lot more interesting.”
Google’s Diversity Report, May 2014
On May 28th, Google published statistics related to the demographic composition of its workforce. Only 30% of Google’s worldwide employees are women and the gender gap is much greater when one compares the number of men (83%) and women (17%) in tech jobs at the company. While the report about the lack of diversity at Google was no surprise and the reasons for the lack of diversity in tech careers are complex, it was another reminder to me about the importance of helping young people aspire to careers in technology and design. Throughout the past year, I have had other such reminders in my work as the art department chairperson at Mercy High School, an all-girl school in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
The most powerful message came from fellow Mercy graduate, Heidi Bliss, who is the Project Manager for Global Creative Resources at General Motors in Warren, Michigan. At the beginning of the school year, she contacted me asking if we could collaborate to promote awareness around creative careers for women at GM. We met and agreed that one of the obstacles is that students and parents are not aware of all of the career paths available with a background in art and technology. Heidi followed up by creating a brochure that highlights the wealth of companies seeking talent and statistics regarding the purchasing power of women. She also arranged a special presentation for our students bringing two young designers who were highly recruited during their art school years and who now work at the GM Design Center. The presentation affirmed for me what I already suspected – that a career in design encompasses a well-rounded background in both the humanities and science.
This is the philosophy that drives Mercy’s Design Foundations course, which is entering its third year. Ninth graders learn the technology skills needed for multi-media projects, and the design principles that will make those projects competitive. Furthermore, Mercy’s art department has expanded its technology offerings from a single advertising course to two courses covering a wide range of computer art topics – Photo, Film, and Animation and Graphic, Product, and Web Design. Improving the awareness of career options in artistic and technological fields is one of the goals of this curricular change.
These courses also provide an overview of several different software programs. Mercy High School has consistently invested in professional software that can give the students a feel for the working world. These programs include the Adobe Creative Suite, Apple’s Final Cut, and SolidWorks. Students in Graphic, Product, and Web Design are assigned a fictional company for which they design the logo using Adobe Illustrator, advertising materials using Adobe InDesign, a website using Adobe Dreamweaver, and a company product using SolidWorks. While the students do not cover every bell and whistle in these programs in a semester, they leave with a good overview of the purpose of each program and a portfolio, which they may take to a college or job interview to show their new skills.
One component of Mercy High School’s mission is to empower girls to be life-long learners and to be leaders in their prospective fields. Certainly, Mercy should continue to capitalize on its diversity drawing from over seventy metropolitan Detroit communities and encourage young women to become leaders in technology and design fields in the future. —Susan Smith (’84), Mercy High School Fine Arts Department Chairperson
*Lucy used a Wikicommons image by Jiří Sedláček (aka Frettie) for her SolidWorks piece.