First-Year Program Gains National Recognition

Steven Woltz jokingly puts a chokehold on his graphic design instructor, Ben Capozzi.Stephen Woltz looks like an all-American teenager, but when he steps into the wrestling ring his opponents fear him. With chokeholds and flying leaps, he has made a name for himself on the independent amateur wrestling circuit in North Carolina. Using that same fire and determination, Woltz has also distinguished himself as a student in Halifax County High School’s Graphic Arts class held at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. His original design is featured in the July/August issue of “Layers” magazine.

“Layers” magazine is a national design publication that covers the latest trends in design and the Adobe Creative Suite® programs. Each month the magazine issues a design makeover challenge that presents designers with an opportunity to submit their redesign of existing products. Digital Art & Design Coordinator Ben Capozzi lobbied for the magazine to consider students in his Graphic Arts class as a single design firm that could participate in the challenge, and the magazine agreed. Their challenge was to redesign a CD cover for the blues/rock/jazz multi-instrumentalist Terry Shaw.

“This is 21st-century learning and practice in the classroom,” said Capozzi. “The students had a real-world challenge with no single ‘right’ answer. They had to really think, and that can be frustrating, but they all rose to the challenge,” he said. Former student Stephen Woltz agreed that the experience was a valuable one, “The project was really fun and it was good to do something with an actual client instead of just learning concepts. Working with a client was a really good experience as a designer in the real business world.”

With limited time, the class worked together and individually to create a single design that would be a class entry. Recent Halifax County High School graduate Stephen Woltz’s design was selected to represent the class. “Having my design accepted felt good but it was also unexpected for someone like me without a lot of experience. I was overwhelmed with appreciation,” he said.

Woltz is beginning his freshman year at Virginia Tech where he is majoring in Communication. Woltz’s program of study was directly influenced by SVHEC Digital Art & Design Instructor Ben Capozzi and the dual enrollment Graphic Arts class he took at the SVHEC during his senior year of high school.

Ben Capozzi congratulates his student Stephen Woltz on having his artwork selected for the cover of Layers Magazine.Dual enrollment students come to the SVHEC five days a week for instruction in digital art, design, and new media. In only its second year of dual enrollment courses, the program’s enrollment has gone from 15 students in one class its first semester to 42 students across two classes.

Starting this fall, a Career Studies Certificate from Danville Community College in Digital Art & Design is available at the SVHEC for adults as well. This five course, 16-credit hour curriculum includes classes in multimedia, web and video design, computer graphics, and creative thinking. Currently there are some 35 adult students in Digital Art & Design program classes. Students may register for these classes until August 28th.

“This certificate is the next step in the development of our full digital art & design program at the SVHEC, and will provide students who earn the certificate with entry-level skills for a range of design, communications, and multimedia opportunities,” said Capozzi. “There’s nothing like this in the region – we’re using state of the art equipment in an innovative classroom and curriculum – and students will not be disappointed.”

Having been a part of the inaugural class, Woltz agrees and highly recommends the graphic arts class at the SVHEC. “Even if you’re not looking into it for a future career the class is worth taking. It gave me the opportunity to work with real clients on multiple occasions, and also it’s just really fun.”

The current issue of “Layers” magazine is available on newsstands. It may also be viewed online at

The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center is advancing the region by developing educational partnerships and opportunities. For more information about the DCC Digital Art & Design program at the SVHEC visit, email, or call 434-572-5440 and toll-free 1-800-283-0098.

Photos courtesy of The News and Record.