Since arriving at Arizona State University in 1981, Emeritus Professor Thomas Schildgen prioritized student success in various ways. Perhaps the most significant was soliciting, coordinating and establishing graphic information technology scholarships. He continues to extend his support today through his own scholarship, the Dr. Thomas Schildgen Scholarship.
Schildgen retired from ASU in 2018 after nearly four impactful decades of service in the graphic information technology program and other areas.
“For 15 years as the program chair, I hosted donors and worked to solicit endowed scholarships such as the Renee and Arthur Horowitz Scholarship or the Sue Folger Scholarship,” he said.
Contributions to graphic information technology education
Schildgen’s dedication to his field grew through extensive experience in graphic communications over several years of work at two institutions of higher education. After working at Illinois State University, Schildgen came to ASU in 1981. He said it was the encouragement from his peers at Illinois State that gave him the courage to him leave his position there and move to Arizona, knowing he would grow the most being out his comfort zone.
“Thanks to the early efforts of Dr. Zeke Prust, who was a professor, department chair and director for the (then) School of Technology at ASU, the graphic communications program at ASU had a strong national reputation,” Schildgen said. “I had the privilege of growing the enrollment and securing national and international accreditation of the undergraduate and graduate programs.”
When the internet revolutionized the graphic information industry, the faculty began exploring how technology could be incorporated into the curriculum, as well as how it could give the program a broader reach. Eventually, graphic communications became one of the first online degree programs at ASU.
“That’s when we changed the name of the degree programs to graphic information technology and started hiring faculty who taught the spectrum of communications technologies from digital printing to internet and web applications,” Schildgen said. “Today, ASU has one of the largest, if not the largest, graphic communications program in the world with over 1,200 students enrolled online or on campus.”
Starting a cycle of giving
Establishing his own scholarship was a “no brainer,” said Schildgen, whose scholarship will financially support at least two students per year.
“It is my wish that scholarship recipients complete their degree program and secure employment so they can consider making a donation to assist the students who were once in their shoes,” Schildgen said.
Katrina Hammon, a fourth-year graphic information technology student and a recipient of Schildgen’s scholarship, says she would like to donate to the scholarship fund once she’s financially able to do so.
“As a full-time student and parent, finances can be overwhelming. This scholarship has allowed me to concentrate more on my studies and take advantage of participating in school clubs,” Hammon said.
“As a student worker for the ASU Print and Imaging Lab and as a student graphic designer for the Fulton Schools, I have been able to receive hands-on experience in the design field. While this experience has been beneficial, it is only part time, which limits the amount of income I bring in each month. I am grateful for the financial assistance this scholarship has added.”
Any incoming transfer student or continuing student in the graphic information technology program can apply for the scholarship.
“With so many of our students working full time while getting their degree, I intentionally kept the required minimum GPA at 3.0 so students are able to balance all of their responsibilities,” Schildgen said.
In addition to financial support, Schildgen is always available to his students for academic advice, “as are all of the graphic information technology faculty,” he said. He retired three years ago but still writes letters of recommendation for both undergraduate and graduate students who need them.
“Dr. Schildgen held his students to the highest standards, coaching them to be ever better in his calm and measured way,” said Erica Miles, graphic information technology alumna and faculty associate. “He had an impact on my future in a lot of ways, and he is 100% responsible for my continued involvement with ASU as a faculty associate teaching the introduction to commercial print course. I am thrilled that he continues to impact the lives of students through his scholarship fund.”
Schildgen was Miles’ mentor as she completed her senior project, as well as the chair of her graduate supervisory committee when she was a master’s program student.
“In addition to playing a critical role for both of my capstone projects, Dr. Schildgen leads by example as a lifelong learner in the print industry,” Miles said. “He was constantly researching and teaching the newest print technologies. The first time I heard the term 'bleeding edge,' no pun intended, may have been from him.”
Inspiring future designers
Near the end of his career, Schildgen was elected president of the ASU University Senate and chair of the University Academic Council, enabling him to work with ASU President Michael Crow to advance the institution’s mission across all campuses.
“The graphics field was my passion throughout my career, and I hope to inspire young designers and communicators to pursue leadership careers in this rewarding industry,” Schilden said. “If this scholarship can support and inspire the career of a future Sun Devil, my goal will be accomplished.”
Anyone interested in giving to the Dr. Thomas Schildgen Scholarship fund can visit the ASU Foundation website. Students may apply through the general scholarship at fultonapps.asu.edu/scholarship (ASURITE login required).
For more information on giving to ASU, contact Assistant Director of Development Jennifer Williams.
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