For many years, Michelle Bryant has dreamed of becoming an artist.
“I have been working toward getting my skills as an artist to a professional level,” said Bryant, of Calumet City, Ill.
After eight years away from school, she returned in 2018 to pursue that dream as a game design and development-art major at University of Wisconsin-Stout.
“The time away made me discover that I wanted to pursue video game art as a career. Now that I am taking classes that will help me get to that level, I find myself looking wherever I can to improve, from utilizing art books to online art courses,” said Bryant, 32, who expects to graduate in 2023.
Her career aspirations have received a big boost. On Tuesday, July 28, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Foundation announced that Bryant is one of four AIAS Foundation Scholars for the 2020-21 academic year.
The award includes a $2,500 scholarship, a yearlong professional mentor, a trip to a video game conference and a trip to the AIAS DICE Summit — Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain — in 2021 for professional training and networking.
“I’m grateful for this scholarship and that it came at a time when I really needed it. As a nontraditional student, I was worried whether or not I would be able to complete my time here at Stout. I have been to college in the past, and it has resulted in me losing part of my financial aid this time around.” she said.
“I was genuinely shocked when I received the news and very thankful.”
Along with the scholarship, she also appreciates the award’s other benefits. “I am looking forward to working with a mentor who has worked in the gaming industry. Knowing that one day these people will be our peers is intimidating, especially when it comes to working with industry veterans. I hope my mentor will help me navigate the ins and outs of the industry and can provide tips when it comes to improving as an artist. It’s a great opportunity, and I am anxiously awaiting to attend the DICE Summit.” Bryant said.
Andrew Williams, director of the game design program, was pleased to see Bryant honored.
"Michelle has a wide variety of talents and is constantly pushing herself to improve her work. She is one of the most deserving people of an honor like this, and we are thrilled her potential is being recognized,” Williams said.
The other three scholars are from Carnegie Mellon University; the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Games and Animation; and an associate technical animator at Oxide Games.
The awards support aspiring students and early professionals who are pursuing video game industry careers in development or leadership roles, according to an AIAS Foundation news release. AIAS also announced six winners of the WomenIn Scholarship, which is supported by Intel.
“Each recipient showed us not only their talents in their respective disciplines but also exhibited a passion for positive change and growth. We look forward to working with them to help provide important skill sets and guidance throughout the year,” said Meggan Scavio, AIAS president.
When Bryant decided to return to school to pursue her passion, she chose UW-Stout over a school in California for several reasons, including that the UW-Stout “game design program offered everything I was looking for when it came to the courses and curriculum.”
She planned to double major in game design-art and entertainment design but has since dropped the latter program. She still plans to develop a comic strip, one of the concentration areas in entertainment design. “I still get many of the same classes since they are required for both majors,” she said.
Her goal is to become a concept artist in game design.
“Taking Design Drawing was exciting for me, as it helped me understand how complex forms like vehicles and skyscrapers are approached from a design point. I’ve admired concept and matte painting artists like Jason Chan, Jordan Grimmer, Jorge Jacinto and more since I discovered I wanted to be a concept artist.
“Overall, this has been the best academic experience I’ve had. The instructors make the classes entertaining to keep us engrossed in our lessons and projects. I have found myself calling on information and skills that I have retained from these classes while working on personal projects during the summer. Plus, I have made some great friends who have been very dependable both in and out of class.” Bryant said.
Nationally ranked programs
Princeton Review this year ranked UW-Stout No. 24 in the nation for its undergraduate game design program and No. 1 in Wisconsin. It’s the eighth straight year UW-Stout has been in the top 25 in the nation.
UW-Stout offers two undergraduate game design programs, a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science, the latter in computer science with a concentration in game design. In these programs, students learn how to create video, mobile, board and other types of games.
The MFA in design program also offers a game design concentration.
Bryant, a game design and development-art major at UW-Stout, hopes to become a concept artist in game design.