ASU students expand their horizons with these three unique certificates

ASU offers 240 minors and certificates, including these three interesting additions to your degree

ASU students can expand their interests by combining various fields within their education. More than 350 undergraduate majors are offered by the University's colleges, most of which have their own sets of minors and certificates, according to ASU’s Academic Programs webpage.

Minors and certificates provide students the opportunity to intertwine their passions and take courses outside of their respective majors. Physics students can study computer gaming, German majors can delve into international cinema, sociology students can become nonprofit experts, and so on. 

With more than 240 minors and certificates to choose from, students can customize their college careers as they choose. The degrees range from the arts to cultural studies to science and more. Here is a breakdown of three unique certificates students may not know about.

Computer Gaming

The computer gaming certificate teaches students computers are not only for homework, but can also be engines for fun and creativity, program professors said.

Students working toward this certificate learn about the process of developing a video game and the ethical responsibilities that come with it.

“It’s very challenging and one of the harder things you can do with computer science, but it’s fun to analyze how a game works and how the different pieces flow together,” Justin Selgrad, a computer gaming professor, said.

Selgrad said that, although a majority of students who study computer gaming come from the digital culture and computer science majors, many are from a variety of other fields, including physics and engineering.

The lessons taught within the program are applicable to most majors, according to Selgrad. Students are exposed to skills such as developing a product and artistic expression, which will be important in many professions.

“The gaming certificate is a good bridge because it is something you can add to pretty much any major,” Selgrad said. “A lot of majors intersect the gaming industry, to marketing and business, architecture, computer science and engineering.”

The title of the certificate should not be intimidating as students in the program start at different skill levels, according to Selgrad. Many students have never coded or even seen a scripting language before.

He said that while those in this degree do not take a specific class to learn how to code, they practice it alongside the game development and design process.

By the time students complete the required 18 credit hours in the computer gaming certificate, they have a portfolio of at least three completed projects. Selgrad said these projects can be showcased to future employers, whether or not students go into the gaming field.

Creative City 

For those interested in pursuing some form of public service, the creative city certificate highlights several fields within the profession, according to Yasmin Alvarado, a freshman in the program.

Alvarado said students in the certificate learn everything from cultural innovation, sustainability, economics and the environment.

“What I like about the creative city certificate is that it will give me the background for all of these different types of things I can use in the future,” Alvarado said.

The certificate is a five-course program consisting of two core classes centered around urban development, according to Alvarado. There are a number of elective courses students can choose from to cater to their interests, including nonprofit and parks and recreation.

“It gives you background on several things that go on within our city and community,” Alvarado said. “It gives you a sense of what is going on and tools for how to fix certain problems.”

Anne Kotleba, a professor within the School of Community Resources and Development, teaches Voluntary Action and Community Leadership, an introductory course for this certificate.

The topics of the course center around civic engagement and community-driven change, Kotleba said. Students delve into nonprofit leadership and management, while learning what it means to bring about change in a community. 

“(The creative city certificate) is based a lot on the idea of place and what place means,” Kotleba said. “It’s about how one gets engaged and involved by being part of these different groups and utilizing (one's) skills, knowledge and surrounding people.”

Kotleba said students receiving this certificate participate in several hands-on experiences, including a group project known as the Social Change Project. They design, develop and implement an idea for social change, typically in coordination with an organization or campus club. 

The “boots-on-the-ground approach” throughout this certificate allows students to think about what they can do to make change, even on a small level, Kotleba said. 

International Cinema

The international cinema certificate allows students to study various subjects through the medium of film. By viewing and discussing movies from other countries and time periods, students learn everything from folk culture to history and politics, according to program professors. 

The program began enrolling students in the fall semester of 2017, and there are plans to continue growing it, said Dan Gilfillan, international cinema certificate founder and professor in the School of International Letters and Cultures. 

“The certificate was designed with the idea to introduce students to and give them the opportunity to explore international cinema,” Gilfillan said. “It’s a unique way to enter into those world cultures through film.”

Students within the program come from many majors, including film and media, history, and religious studies, according to Gilfillan. 

Of the 18 credit hours students need to receive this certificate, the only required course is an introductory class called Approaches to International Cinema. The remainder of the program comprises five elective courses students hand pick to fit their interests. 

Those in the program can choose to narrow their education on a particular type of film, such as Chinese or mafia cinema, or they can learn about a variety of film types.

“We aim to expose them to a variety of artistic expressions and want them to understand the way in which filmmakers embed ideas within political, cultural and historical moments,” Ana Hedberg Olenina, an international cinema professor, said. 

By watching films and analyzing them through classroom conversations, the professors want to teach students about cross-cultural understanding, according to Olenina. This newfound understanding informs students about how films are perceived by different audiences.

Students in this program further engage with their learning material by putting on their very own film festival. They are responsible for selecting the films to be viewed, advertising and ensuring the school has performance rights. 

“We have these extracurricular activities, such as creating and promoting a cultural event,” Olenina said. “Those are really important skills to have in addition to writing and analyzing visual narratives.”

Olenina said the goal of this certificate is for students to learn to appreciate things they would otherwise not encounter in mainstream cinema and expand their global awareness to be more informed citizens.

With hundreds of minors and certificates to choose from, many get underrepresented or overlooked, Alvarado said. She said it is important for students to explore the opportunities available to them and make the most of their college careers. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @emily_a_taylor on Twitter.

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