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Teacher, leader, legacy maker

By Nancy Gregory
On May 5, 2011

Imagine that after you graduate from MATC, you spend the next thirty years at MATC. What if during that time, you create programs that will endure after you retire? Jim MacDonald is kid that grew up at MATC while creating a legacy during more than half of his lifetime.
As a student, MacDonald worked in the Visual Communications Center, today's Design Center, with wonderful projects that accelerated his learning. He learned to create displays with hand-lettered posters and signs and became a sign painter.
A unique thing happened when he was asked to work on a design project for the display cases located outside the President's office.The college campus was growing, and MacDonald created a theme for all the new campus centers. In the 1970's, MATC's colors were blue and gold but not striking enough for MacDonald. Applying his art, he selected dark blue and white instead of the approved colors, and presented his layouts and thumbnails to President Ramsey. Those colors are the same we see on banners today. He also worked as an illustrator with teachers and staff to design book covers printed by MATC, so he became very acquainted with the staff.
After graduation, he worked as art director for Milwaukee Electric Tool. Then shortly after, he got a call from MATC to work in Instructional Design for the Mequon campus. Once on campus, he was asked to join the planning committee for the Mequon-Theinsville Community Fourth of July event. His suggestion to hold a mini-Summerfest event with kids' games, food courts, music, fireworks and a water show earned him the title of chair for 10 years.
As one position at MATC ended and the next opportunity arose, he became the art director and jack-of-all-trades teaching design, art, media and public relations, and finally serving as the Associate Dean of Graphic Arts. MacDonald has created change at MATC by taking the risk and doing great things.
As a student, there was no portfolio class. As staff, he created a capstone event for students to create and display their portfolios. Under his leadership, six new cutting-edge degree programs have been added to the curriculum including Animation, eCommerce, Computer Simulation and Gaming, Web Designer, eProduction for Television, and Music and Digital Audio Production.
His staff says, "We have never worked so hard in our lives, and yet we are happy." MacDonald's approach has been to get away from textbooks instead by integrating real-world projects with clients. He has had a hand in creating Virtual Milwaukee, a digital re-creation of our city with 3-D graphics connecting to databases with weather, traffic and data that can be used as a planning tool with city planning software. The project took the combined efforts of faculty and staff with more than 50 MATC students studying civil engineering, graphic and interior design, music, photography and animation.
He is proud of his staff who teach digital technology allowing students to use "green" tools to draw virtual pen and ink human forms in different poses, and then paint, and animate them on their screens. Using motion capture animation, students and instructors collaborated with producer and director Ronald Kolman owner of RK Media, LLC. Together they created "Woody's World" featuring the adventures of an animated wooden spoon. MATC provided most of the production work and some of the camera work, sound and editing.
He praises his faculty and staff constantly upgrade skills to change with technology. A project, commissioned by Active Across America, involved the combined talents of the television, production, animation and music departments learning industry standards used in the real world. Their cartoon depictions of Stinky Shoe and Lacey, teaching the benefits of healthy living, were featured at MATC's Portfolio Night at Discovery World last year, and at this years event.
The next MATC Portfolio Night will be held at Discovery World on May 11 with students from 22 departments ranging from accounting and interior design to television and welding. MATC staff will present their students portfolios from 5 - 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Together with his faculty-industry teams, MATC now has an international model that has brought over 20 industry partners and college interns together to develop products and services. The success of this education model has garnered MacDonald one of three US invitations to the Trans-Atlantic Technology and Training Alliance symposium. Unfortunately, MacDonald will not be able to attend; however, the presentation will be offered in print to the crowd gathered in San Sebastian, Spain on May 5, 2011.
After retirement, MacDonald will come full circle and again to take classes at MATC. Once completed, he expects to share what he has learned as a teacher. His legacy will continue to grow.
A parting farewell from Dr. Vicki Martin, "Jim MacDonald has effectively served the college for 32 years, most recently as Associate Dean for the new School of Media and Creative Arts Division. His leadership in that division has led to value-added experiences for students such as the Virtual Milwaukee project, which is showcased at Discovery World. We wish Jim well in his retirement and thank him for his vision and efforts on behalf of his division and MATC.


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