New school

The Bay's most innovative degrees show the way to the future

California College of the Arts' interaction design program gets students ready to run in a Minority Report-like future

CAREERS AND ED You don't need a degree, or even the patience to sift through US Census Bureau reports on educational attainment, to know that each year this nation graduates more students from institutions of higher ed — public and private universities, colleges, junior colleges, and professional schools — than it did the year before. San Francisco is second only to Seattle in the number of papered persons running around, and statistics say that they, in turn, are more likely to raise little educational overachievers of their own. With this glut of matriculation on the horizon, it's hard not to ponder the degree programs of the future: an associate's in astrotourism? A bachelor's of biosynthetic anatomy? A PhD of P4TA? (That's "preparing for the apocalypse" for the cyber-stupid.) Hard to say. But before we get carried away, here's a sampling of programs fit for a brave new world that can be found in the here and now.



California South Bay University sits smack-dab in the center of Silicon Valley, so it's no surprise that the offerings are high-tech. The larger California zeitgeist seems to be rolling in on the San Francisco fog, though, and interesting patterns — like a master's of science in green energy technology — have emerged. But the university really takes advantage of the Santa Clara Valley sunshine (and billowing demand for sustainable energy) with its Interstate Renewable Energy Council-accredited certificate program in solar photovoltaics, the science of connecting the two. If a full-fledged degree isn't in your forecast, the school offers two 40-hour courses that might be a perfect fit.

California South Bay University, 1107 North Fair Oaks, Sunnyvale. (408) 400-9008,



Degrees in video-game design and Web programming are old hat, but California College of the Arts takes the idea of the user interface beyond the screen, and plugs it back into real life. The school's focus on design that users can interact with includes classes on platforms from cell phone to sculpture, game console to gallery, preparing students to "create meaningful and innovative designed experiences in the realms of work, lifestyle, and play." Vague? Yes. Useful? Possibly. That three-dimensional holographic surround-sound computer interface that Tom Cruise uses in Minority Report? Get your virtual-reality gloves out 'cause it's on its way ...

California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., SF. 1-800-477-1278,



Horticulture goes high-tech at Merritt College. The school claims to have all the most up-to-date equipment in the field, and with 5,000 square feet of computerized greenhouses, a 5,000-square-foot lath house, a floral and drafting lab, and disciplines such as "turf management," we doubt anyone would argue. And to think, we were still relying on dirt, sun, and water to do our growing.

Merritt College, 12500 Campus Drive, Oakl. (510) 531-4911,



This master's program allows students to develop as writers and visual artists simultaneously, and encourages a "deep exploration of the book form in both content and materiality." The interplay of form and content is not a new academic trope, but given that physical codices may soon be obsolete, taking a moment to ponder the book as object might not be a bad idea — lest future generations wonder why we wrote all over our toilet paper. Literary artifacts? Worth checking out!

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