At the beginning of fall quarter, Lower Columbia College graphic design students were short on computers. There were 20 in the lab, but the seven-year-old PCs were long outdated, and only 15 still worked.
Today, the lab features 20 gleaming new Mac desktops — the result of a $65,000 investment the college made to expand its art program to meet a growing demand for graphic designers and other creative artists. In this effort, LCC is bucking a nationwide and statewide trend.
The lab was outfitted with the new Macs for winter quarter as part of a proposal crafted by Jennie Mynhier, the school’s new instructor of art, visual and performing arts. Mynhier started in her new role at LCC in the fall after accepting a job offer last spring.
Fall quarter marked the first time in nine years that LCC has had a full-time art instructor.
Mynhier, who holds a handful of art degrees, said she was attracted by LCC’s “very specific” job posting.
“We put a lot of care into developing the job description for her position,” said Melinda Harbaugh, LCC’s dean of instruction and learning resources.
Harbaugh said the job posting was the product of a collaborative effort by the entire department.
The school posted a job opening in February looking for an art instructor with technology skills, fine arts training, a professional graphic design background and administrative experience. Mynhier fit the bill perfectly.
Mynhier was hired away from the Otis College of Art and Design in Southern California, where she managed the fine arts office. She has two undergraduate degrees from the Heron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis and two master’s degrees from the Maryland Institute of Art in Baltimore.
Before she was a teacher, she spent five years as a professional graphic designer, art director and senior designer for newspapers and magazines.
Her resume includes stints as art director for The X-Files fan club magazine and contributor to the Buffy the Vampire fan club magazine.
One of the first things Mynhier did when she arrived was to enlist the help of the school’s IT department for a proposal to the associated student’s technology committee to outfit the the computer lab with new Macs. The funding request also included money for two additional Macs in the school’s library and an extra Mac for faculty development.
“That was a big part of what needed to happen,” she said in a recent interview.
With that box ticked, she’s turned her attention to refreshing the art department’s existing courses and adding new courses to take advantage of the lab’s powerful new machines. All of the Macs feature the Adobe Creative Suite, which typically costs $50 a month with a one-year agreement.
Harbaugh said the new emphasis on art and graphic design was driven by suggestions from faculty and students.
“We were hearing that students wanted more graphic design, and that some weren’t coming here because LCC wasn’t offering more graphic design courses,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh said the school is also looking to beef up its design program based on future job projections.
The United States currently has about 266,000 graphic design jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number is expected to grow by about 12,500 over the next six years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meanwhile, Washington currently has nearly 7,100 graphic design jobs. The state is expected to add roughly 1,700 graphic design jobs by 2024 — roughly 14 percent of all graphic design jobs nationwide, according to Projections Central, a jobs forecasting site.
“Jobs data was certainly a factor,” said Wendy Hall, LCC’s vice president of effectiveness and college relations. “Graphic designers are really in high demand right now; there’s a lot more openings than qualified applicants.”
While the school has 234 students enrolled in art courses for winter quarter, faculty hope Mynhier and the addition of the new Macs create enough demand to allow the department to start offering multiple sections.
At a time of eroding public support for the arts and higher education, Hall said it’s noteworthy that LCC has increased its investment in art and graphic design.
Washington State University, for example, recently decided to eliminate many of its arts programs at the end of the current performance cycle.
“It’s notable that a small college like LCC is growing its arts programs at a time when other colleges and universities much larger than ours are actually cutting them back.”