Faculty Focus: Sheila Schumacher
Title: Director of Digital Design Programs, College of Fine Arts and Production
Years at GCU: Employed by GCU 2001-2007, then 2012-current
- Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communications, Arizona State University
- Master of Fine Arts in New Media, Transart Institute at Donau University, Krems, Austria
What is your most notable accomplishment in your field, and why was it important?
While I have received awards for my designs and for managing team projects, my award as the 2016 Most Influential Instructor, voted on by the students at GCU, holds the most value to me. Teaching is my primary field now, and the opportunity to design a logo doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning. However, being a guide for our students does.
It may sound overly sentimental, but I prefer to be known as one of the building blocks for our alumni’s careers as they go on to be happy and successful after walking into our doors with no clue about their future. If I mounted an exhibition of my best work, it would be photos of them.
What are you most passionate about in your field and why?
The funding for public education in the last 30 years has continually eroded children’s exposure to the arts, and particularly design. The result is a diminished belief that design is a viable career choice, particularly for diverse students. Keeping the arts, and particularly design thinking and problem solving, in front of the K-12 audience ensures that we have a pipeline of excited and talented designers to support the great need society has for our design skills.
Many graduating high school seniors select majors based on what “feels right” at the time. I want them all to have been exposed to the arts as careers and learn that being creative does not equal “starving artist.” Outreach programs through the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the professional organization for design, and individual organizations such as Free Arts of Arizona continue to build creative connections between young students and their careers.
This is important to me because I was a kid who wanted to be an artist. An elementary art teacher provided the daily opportunity to create, a class in high school equivalent to current career and technical education programs taught me to design and my theater department let me paint for shows. If those opportunities were not there, I wouldn’t be here.
What is a memorable moment you had in class, and what does that reveal about your teaching style?
In the middle of one semester, a student who had transferred into design confided in me that she is colorblind. She was pretty scared about how that would impact her because she had found such a love of creativity by switching her major. To me, this was not a big deal. One of my high school art instructors was colorblind, and at the beginning of desktop computers, they also were colorblind. If we wanted color, we had to know the numeric representation of them to ensure color fidelity through the process.
So I taught her to “fly by the numbers” and she practiced and practiced creating literally hundreds of photographic-quality illustrations in color. Today that student paints murals and inspires kids living in shelters that they can do anything with art.
I believe in process. If you work the process, the process will work for you, whatever the process is. Every student has a different path, and I’m willing to walk it with them.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
I am fortunate to live up against the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, so hiking there is a true mind-clearing activity. I hope to walk the West Highland Trail in Scotland someday.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
I’m pretty much an open book. If you don’t know something about me, it’s probably because we haven’t spent much time together. One interesting fact is that my MFA was through an international program in Austria, hosting artists in multiple disciplines from around the world. This was a unique opportunity to meet peers and make friends around the world. Close connection with different cultures changed me, improved me, forever.