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This could actually be my major? No way!

  • Columbia College Students and alumni of the Interactive Arts and Media Department at the GDC Expo 2013.
Columbia College Students and alumni of the Interactive Arts and Media… (Handout )
March 29, 2013|By Erin Vogel | For RedEye

Columbia College recently made it to the top ten on a list ranking colleges that offer animation and game design programs.

Online resource the Animation Career Review's "Top 100 US Schools for Animation and Game Design" list, which was released at the end of February, rated Columbia No. 8 of 100 other national schools with similar programs. The college inched forward ten spots from its No. 18 ranking from last year.

Three degrees in game programming that are new to Columbia this year could be partially credited for the school's spot on the list: Students can now receive a bachelor of arts in programming for mobile devices, a bachelor of arts in programming for games, and a bachelor of science in programming for games, according to Joe Cancellaro, chairman of Columbia's Interactive Arts and Media department.

Cancellaro said the new majors were a direct result of expert advice Columbia has received from gaming professionals about what they like to see from recent college graduates looking for jobs in those fields.

"One of our major goals is not only to create technologically advanced students, but to make them socially adept to fit any work environment that's related to their field," Cancellaro said.

Senior Brian Block, 29, chose Columbia because it offered a major in sound design for video games, a degree he said was perfect for him because of his background as a musician.

"It really combined the two things I've always had an interest in, music and video games, without putting forth any effort," Block said. "It was kind of a 'Eureka!' moment when I saw that program listing, like -- 'This could actually be my major? No way.'"

Pursuing the major at Columbia was kind of a risk for Block, who worked as a teacher for several years after graduating from Northern Illinois University with an art education major -- but now that he's close to graduation, he said he's glad he took the leap of pursuing a second degree.

"Getting out of the full-time workforce and going back to school again was definitely a risk, but I feel at this point, it's definitely worth it," Block said.

The top ten ranking also acknowledged that Columbia is an excellent school for students interested in pursuing degrees in animation.

Many alumni from Columbia's animation program, which is housed in the school's film a video department, have gone on to work at places such as Pixar, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon after graduation, according to Bruce Sheridan, chair of the department.

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