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Incarnate Word's New Programs Bring High Technology to Campus

Computer Graphic Arts

The virtual world is here, and UIW students are helping to create it in UIW’s Computer Graphic Arts Program.

Computer Illustration by Adam Watkins
Computer Illustration by Adam Watkins

The program’s 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 program’s 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

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 UIW’s 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 its infancy.

A graduate of UT-Austin’s anthropology program, Purifoy went on to earn a master’s 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.

"I’ve 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 their operations.

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 program.

"It’s one thing to know how to use excel, but another thing to know how to develop a software program."

And, as with UIW’s other new technology-oriented degree plans, the department’s 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 such skills.


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 bachelor’s and master’s 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 master’s degree in Business Administration from Our Lady of the Lake University in Houston, Texas.

Szecsy’s 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 construction industry.

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 spring semester.

"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 we do."

A vision that the director has for the program is to also offer an extended program in which the student may also earn a master’s 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 world’s oldest engineering and newest hi-tech engineering exists.

"Engineers are the lifeblood of any society. No one ever says there are too many engineers," Dr. Szecsy said.

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