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DePaul named best school in the Midwest for animation

Animation Career Review places DePaul’s MFA in the top 10 in U.S.

Animation students working with models
DePaul's animation programs are ranked No. 1 in the Midwest by Animation Career Review. (Image courtesy of University Marketing and Communications)

For the first time, Animation Career Review has named DePaul the No. 1 school in the Midwest for animation. The School of Cinematic Arts animation programs together rose to the 16th spot overall in the United States—up from 18th last year. The MFA in Animation moved up to ninth in the country, up from 10th place last year.

"Our students and their success are driving this achievement," says Scott Roberts, associate professor and animation program chair at Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media. "Our excellent faculty are helping propel students forward, and they're landing their dream jobs. Helping students achieve their dreams is pretty incredible."

The ranking cites DePaul alumni who have been hired by major studios and gaming companies as a proof point for the program's rise. Graduates have landed roles at Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Cartoon Network, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, LAIKA Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Wargaming, Warner Bros. Animation, BioWare and Iron Galaxy Studios.

Alum Dominika Smetek is a production manager at Disney TV Animation and previously held the same title at Nickelodeon Animation on favorites like "SpongeBob SquarePants." Molly McCandless is a stop-motion animator whose recent credits include Guillermo Del Toro's feature "Pinocchio," which recently won a Golden Globe Award. Other alumni are forging their own paths, including Chaz Bottoms. As founder of CBA Studios, Bottoms was recently named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 for cultivating diverse artists.

The ranking also cites DePaul for having a large animation faculty, with 13 full-time and many adjunct faculty members who are actively working in their fields. "This national recognition is a testament to our faculty's hard work and teamwork," Roberts says.

DePaul offers graduate and undergraduate degrees with concentrations in a wide array of areas. New in 2022, DePaul added a combined bachelor's degree in computer science and animation. This multidisciplinary degree is designed for students seeking technical artistic roles in animation and game development.

The BFA program is also interdisciplinary, with concentrations in visual effects, motion graphics and cinema. Still, the most popular concentration for undergrads goes back to animation roots: storyboarding and character design. "One of our greatest strengths is the diversity of our faculty and their disciplines. Students don't need to focus on just one thing. They can explore," Roberts says.

Among the faculty members driving this excellence is Brian Ferguson, DePaul Animator in Residence and a 23-year veteran character animator from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Assistant Professor Naghmeh Farzaneh worked on a feature documentary last year, "In the Dark of the Valley," that was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding social issue documentary.

Now in its 12th year, Animation Career Review's ranking is respected among animators and students alike. Learn more about DePaul's animation program online.