Incarnate Word's New Programs Bring High Technology
by Troy Knickerbocker
Computer Graphic Arts
The virtual world is here, and UIW students are helping to create
it in UIWs Computer Graphic Arts Program.
Computer Illustration by
The programs head is Adam Watkins, who jumped at the chance
to build a new program at a university ready to commit the resources.
"Of all the programs I looked at, UIW was the most serious
in terms of making an investment."
Watkins joined UIW last fall from Utah State University, where
before earning his Master of Fine Arts in Digital Media Arts, he
studied Set and Lighting Design in the Theater department.
While earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater, Watkins had
the frustrating experience of spending hours modeling scenic designs
for stage productions, using balsa wood and glue. When the time
came to review them, they were often torn up as changes were made.
Then, working in the computer lab one afternoon, he saw a 3-D modeling
program and a light bulb went off.
Initially, he did his scenic designs in the modeling program, but
the work intrigued him so much it led to a change in career path
- which led Watkins to UIW.
His program focuses on two aspects of Digital Media:
3-D animation and graphic design. Three dimensional animation is
commonplace in the entertainment industry, where often in movies
special effects are integrated seamlessly with live action shots.
Computer game companies and other entertainment entities also rely
heavily on animators, Watkins said.
The graphic design specialty covers both traditional print design,
as well as web design, although it focuses on the latter. Feasibility
studies conducted during the programs planning stages showed
that companies wanted both sets of skills, Watkins said.
The program is designed to guide students into a specific area of
design early in their degree plans. "As digital media begins
to advance, people need to get into their specialties earlier."
"Web design heretofore has been a translation of print to the
web," Watkins said. "Just as early television was basically
like radio." With broadband transmission becoming more commonplace,
and streaming media becoming easier to access, he foresees a fundamental
change in the web environment to a more 3-dimensional world.
Computer Science is a hard field for most lay persons to define.
Based more on mathematics and natural science than actually working
hands-on with computers, it is the field underpinning all technical
developments now taken for granted, including the common desktop
computing, and the Internet.
Heading UIWs new Computer Science Department is Dr. Jesse
Purifoy, who understands the origins of the computer science field
well. After all, he was there at its beginnings, as a mathematician
who began dabbling in computer programming when the field was in
A graduate of UT-Austins anthropology program, Purifoy went
on to earn a masters degree in Topology. Topology is the study
of those properties of geometric figures that remain unchanged even
when under distortion, so long as no surfaces are torn.
He landed his first teaching job with the University of Memphis,
where he set up a statistics lab, and was able to purchase one of
the first programmable calculators.
"Ive developed software for every major industry in the
country," he said. He still manages a small business, in addition
to his UIW duties, supporting small businessmen as they computerize
The program is similar in some respects to the Information Systems
degree plan offered through the School of Business and Applied Arts
and Sciences. But Computer Science, which calls the School of Mathematics,
Science and Engineering home, is more concerned with writing computer
programs than using them.
"They diverge when it comes to the theoretical," Purifoy
said. "Computer Science is about developing new applications
or software, while Information Systems teach people how to use that
"Its one thing to know how to use excel, but another
thing to know how to develop a software program."
And, as with UIWs other new technology-oriented degree plans,
the departments graduates will be in high demand, Purifoy
added. Attracting qualified adjunct faculty is challenging, as well,
given the salaries available in the private sector to people possessing
The Engineering program at the University of the Incarnate Word
is on its way to a promising start with the recent hiring of Dr.
Richard Szecsy (say-chee) as the new Director of Engineering. Szecsy
is a native of San Antonio and a graduate of Clark High School.
After graduation, he attended Texas A & M University where he
completed both his bachelors and masters degrees in
Civil Engineering. Soon after, he left Texas to continue his education
and earned his doctorate in Civil Engineering from the University
of Illinois. Recently, he also earned a masters degree in
Business Administration from Our Lady of the Lake University in
Szecsys background is comprised of experience in both corporate
and international business. He has had the opportunity to work not
only in different locations across the United States, but also in
Asia, Australia, and Europe.
He is a Registered Professional Engineer who specializes in construction
materials and is a national leading expert in recycled water and
concrete. He now has his own consulting firm, which deals mainly
with the integration of Internet and technology strategies for the
UIW is the first institution in San Antonio to offer a degree in
Civil Engineering with a concentration in Environmental Engineering.
The four-year program will be in full gear beginning fall 2001,
but began offering the Introduction to Engineering course this past
"This new program is geared towards producing students that
can become engineers and contribute to the health, safety, and welfare
of the public," Dr. Szecsy said.
"Engineers follow a strict code of ethics that is part of everything
A vision that the director has for the program is to also offer
an extended program in which the student may also earn a masters
degree in Business Administration. Finally, Szecsy wants to utilize
the international ties that UIW has and give the students an opportunity
to take part in an exchange program to study in Turkey or China
where the worlds oldest engineering and newest hi-tech engineering
"Engineers are the lifeblood of any society. No one ever says
there are too many engineers," Dr. Szecsy said.