Dallas ISD joins collegiate academy partnership with SMU Guildhall, Dallas County Community College District

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SMU Guildhall has joined a partnership with Dallas ISD and the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) to create new opportunities for students to earn free and transferable college credit before they graduate high school.

As a Dallas ISD Collegiate Academy partner, SMU Guildhall will work with students enrolled in the Gaming Pathway at Dr. Emmett J. Conrad High School in Dallas’ Vickery Meadow neighborhood.

The district launched eight collegiate academies, one of which is the first Pathways to Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in the state of Texas, at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. These schools provide the opportunity for high school students to:

  • Earn up to an Associate of Applied Science degree tuition-free while in high school.
  • Earn up to 60 hours of tuition-free college credit (eliminating thousands of dollars in tuition).
  • Start college at a four-year university having completed two years of academic credit work, thereby earning a four-year degree in less time.
  • Enter the job market workforce-ready with the skills to succeed.
  • Become familiar with the effort needed to successfully complete college-level coursework.

“We’re so excited to be a charter partner with Conrad High School and to support and enhance STEM education in the Dallas ISD,” says SMU Guildhall Director Gary Brubaker. “The Guildhall’s mission to train the next generation of game designers aligns well with Conrad’s purpose. And the Gaming Pathway’s first cohort is 55 percent female, which is a perfect complement for the Guildhall’s and SMU’s endeavors to increase gender diversity in game development and other STEM fields.”

The collegiate academies are designed to serve incoming ninth-grade students who want to attend college, will be first-generation college students, and have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Each collegiate academy will accept 100 to 125 ninth-grade students each year; students will only be accepted into the program as incoming freshmen. The students will then move together as a cohort as they progress through their high school years.

In Fall 2016, the Dallas ISD opened seven new collegiate academies and one P-TECH model – the largest number of collegiate academy openings for a school district in a single school year. Each collegiate academy has a higher education partner and offers academic pathways leading to an Associate of Applied Science degree. The career pathways available to students range from game design, software programming and application development to business administration and law enforcement.

The district’s industry partners – which also include JP Morgan Chase, AT&T and many others – play a key role in the education and training offered to collegiate academy students by offering site visits, internships and insight from professionals in the field.

“Partnering with the Guildhall will add so much value to Conrad’s Gaming Pathway,” says Israel Cordero ’98, Dallas ISD deputy chief of school leadership, who will coordinate with Guildhall personnel on classroom implementation. “It will give students at Conrad an opportunity to see the benefits of pursuing a degree plan in game design.”

Guildhall Deputy Directors Elizabeth Stringer, Academics, and René Archambault, Admission and Marketing, will provide curricular and program support as members of Conrad’s Collegiate Academy steering committee. Guildhall faculty will offer guest lectures on industry-specific topics of interest. Archambault will coordinate Guildhall involvement through all aspects of the program and bring in students, faculty and administration as necessary.

As part of their own Team Game Production courses, Guildhall master’s degree candidates will host on-site game testing and critique sessions at Conrad. In addition, they will host Q&A sessions about Guildhall’s graduate-student games and provide intentional mentoring to the high school students. The Guildhall’s first play test at Conrad will take place in October or November.

“There is so much benefit that will come from this partnership, and we are pleased to have the University at the table,” Cordero says. “As an SMU graduate, it gives me great appreciation and pride to see this evolve.”

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