Heads of the class: Game design BFA, MFA and animation programs ranked best in Wisconsin

Game design options also both No. 6 nationally by Princeton Review among public universities
A student tries a virtual reality game during a recent Stout Game Expo.
​Jerry Poling | April 11, 2023

Three programs from UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design are the best in the state, according to new national rankings.

Ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin are two Bachelor of Fine Arts programs: game design and development-art; and animation and digital media, along with the Master of Fine Arts in design. The rankings are by Princeton Review and Animation Career Review.

“As the animation and gaming industries continue to grow in both size and prominence around the globe, university-level programs are as well. We’re honored to continue to be considered a top-tier institution in these categories, both on the undergraduate and graduate level,” said Dave Beck, School of Art and Design director. “This is truly a testament to the diversity of creative disciplines, faculty expertise and hands-on facilities that we strive to offer at UW-Stout.”

Students try out games created by game design and development majors.
Students try out games at UW-Stout created by game design and development majors. / UW-Stout

For more than a decade, UW-Stout’s game design programs have led state rankings and have been among the national leaders. They are part of UW-Stout’s polytechnic, lab-based, hands-on approach to learning. The School of Art and Design is the largest in the Upper Midwest with more than 1,200 students.

Princeton Review, an education services company, also ranked UW-Stout’s game design BFA No. 6 nationally among public colleges or universities. Overall, UW-Stout was No. 30 nationally.

“Our consistent recognition is due in no small part to the professional environment we try to create in each of our classes,” said Professor Andrew Williams, interim director of the program. “Our programs teach with the latest industry trends but also with an eye to essential fundamentals of art, design and programming.”

Game Design & Development Degrees

UW-Stout's B.F.A. Game Design & Development is ranked #30 in the nation.
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The MFA in design also was No. 6 among public schools nationally and No. 23 overall. Game design is one of eight focus areas within UW-Stout’s MFA in design, which has a cross-disciplinary approach to help students customize the program to their interests and skillsets.

For every graduate student focusing specifically on the games industry, we have two others who are interested in play experiences, interactivity, virtual environments, extended reality or narrative-driven storytelling,” said Erik Evensen, MFA in design program director. “Our strength in the game design area benefits all of our students in many different ways.”

The 14th annual Princeton Review rankings cover 150 schools. Criteria considered included academics, faculty, technology and career prospects.

M.F.A. Design

Cultivate your knowledge and skills in diverse design disciplines that combine your passions for practical problem-solving and innovative teaching.
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We recommend these schools as outstanding choices for students considering a career in the exciting field of game design,” said Rob Franek, Princeton Review's editor-in-chief. “Their programs and faculties are first-rate. Their facilities are state-of-the-art. And their alumni include many of the game design industry’s most successful artists, designers, developers and entrepreneurs.”

Franek noted the exceptional experience gained by students enrolled in the ranked game design programs. In recent years more than 78% of the students in the programs worked on a shipped game as part of their studies.

At undergraduate schools, that figure was 77%. At graduate schools, it was 79%. Nearly all of the students in the programs developed an actionable plan to launch a functional game after graduation. At undergraduate schools, that figure was 95%. At graduate schools, it was 99%, Franek said in a Princeton Review news release.

The animation and digital media program at UW-Stout is ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin among public universities.
The animation and digital media program at UW-Stout is ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin among public universities. / UW-Stout

Animation Career Review rankings

Industry leader Animation Career Review also ranked game design programs. UW-Stout was:

  • No. 1 in Wisconsin
  • No. 7 in the Midwest (No. 5 public)
  • No. 19 among public universities nationally
  • No. 42 overall nationally

For animation programs, Animation Career Review listed UW-Stout’s animation and digital media Bachelor of Fine Arts:

  • No. 1 in Wisconsin among public schools
  • No. 22 in the Midwest (No. 12 public)

B.F.A. Animation & Digital Media

Combine your passions for art, design, and technology while enjoying collaborative and cross-disciplinary projects.
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More than 200 schools were surveyed.

UW-Stout’s game design and animation lab spaces include a state-of-the-art Vicon Motion Capture Studio. The School of Art and Design features many other labs, studios and galleries.

The university also offers a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science with a concentration in game design and development.

The School of Art and Design has six BFA programs, including graphic design and interactive mediaindustrial designinterior design and studio art. It offers two Bachelor of Science degrees in arts administration and entrepreneurship and video production and a Master of Fine Arts in design.

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