On a list of the top three new media schools in the country, one would expect to find such esteemed institutions as MIT and NYU, but Full Sail University? It’s true and when it comes to the production of such popular forms of entertainment like movies, video games and music, this 30-year-old university has been churning out some of the most talented industry professionals working today.

MM spoke with Full Sail president Garry Jones about how his university has matured over the years and the recently established Full Sail Alumni Hall of Fame.

Josh Elmets (MM): Your first education program was launched in March 1979, making the university 30 years old as of last March. What do you see for the next 30 years of Full Sail?

Garry Jones (GJ): I have been privileged to be a part of Full Sail from the time of its inception until today. The vision of this institution has always been to provide world-class education to students who aspire for careers in the entertainment and media industry and I know there will be much more excitement to come in the future. We look forward to new degree offerings, continued campus expansion and constantly enhancing all that we do to stay ahead of the curve and provide education that understands and matches a student’s passion to learn and achieve.

MM: When you compare the Full Sail of 1979 to that of 2009, what are the biggest differences you see and what do you think the most influential changes have been to the university?

GJ: Originated as a Recording Arts program, Full Sail was first advertised in the January 1979 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. Over the last three decades, Full Sail has since grown into a leading master, bachelor and associate degree-granting university, offering 23 degree programs, and has graduated more than 32,000 alumni. Currently, Full Sail’s 190-acre campus and online education platform serves more than 7,000 students from 50 states and 65 countries. Full Sail has also become the largest employer in Winter Park, FL, with more than 1,400 full-time equivalent employees. Full Sail’s economic impact includes an additional 2,200 indirect jobs and, over a five-year period, a projected impact of $2.7 billion to the Central Florida region.

MM: For its 30th anniversary, Full Sail will be creating a Hall of Fame for past graduates. Tell us a bit about this celebration and what it takes to become a member of the Hall of Fame.

GJ: The Hall of Fame will recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of Full Sail graduates throughout its 30-year history, with plans to honor new classes of inductees in the future. The Hall of Fame, which will be located at the center of Full Sail’s 190-acre campus, will feature a 60-foot mixed media wall featuring video, sound, pictures and industry credits of chosen graduates. In addition, the site will include artifacts and memorabilia of Hall of Fame inductees.

This year, the inaugural six inductees have been unanimously selected by a Full Sail committee based on the individual’s commitment to their profession and career in the industry for more than a decade, as well as the model they have set for the Full Sail community at large.

MM: What aspect of Full Sail University do you consider to be the most innovative?

GJ: From the onset of Full Sail’s educational offerings, we have always believed in moving our students through programs delivered at an accelerated pace. This concept works well for individuals who are both focused and passionate about a career path and, in the case of Full Sail University, passionate about a career in entertainment and media. A typical school week at this university comprises approximately 37 hours of learning experiences made up of both lab and classroom time. Students move from lectures where the theory of a subject is presented to a four-hour, hands-on exercise later that same day in a studio and/or lab environment, where the same subject matter from earlier in the day is explored via tactile experiences. Thanks to low student-to-teacher ratios in those labs, each student benefits from improved retention garnered by coupling both of these methods of learning.

A tenant of the Full Sail educational model is to remain current with technology that is on the cutting edge of professional production in the entertainment industry. Full Sail aggressively reinvests each year in the latest software, new generations of computers and the upgrading of the large “anchor” pieces of gear found in more than 110 studios and production suites. The obvious merits of this investing are that the student learning experience relates directly to the employment demands they will find post Full Sail University.

At Full Sail University, not only do we teach students the creative and technical elements involved in the entertainment and media industry, but we also focus on the optimization of the traits and expectations that employers demand of new hires. Through Full Sail’s unique Global Professionalism Standards program, a constant thread of both professional and altruistic behaviors is woven into students’ educational experiences. The result is graduates that are cognizant of how their interface with people and their willingness to move in a professional manner results in favorable employment conditions. Verification of the Global Professionalism Standards—as well as contributions to its developments—have come from many of Full Sail’s 3,000-plus employers that continue to rely upon this university for future generations of employees.

MM: What led you to found Full Sail?

GJ: The motivation for the creation of Full Sail stemmed from two things: A void in the realm of education for the world of entertainment and media and a desire to create a school dedicated to those that are passionate about careers in entertainment. By designing an educational model to specifically serve students who know what they want to do with their lives, Full Sail became a vehicle through which students could further their goals faster and go farther than through other method. And with a team of faculty and staff dedicated to providing an extraordinary student experience, Full Sail’s culture propagates the concept of “doing what you love.” To this day, 30 years later, this university places significance on student satisfaction, student completion and employment.

For more information, visit www.fullsail.edu.