Spotlight: Jason Lisi of Ryerson University GCM

PrintAction Staff
September 21, 2018
By PrintAction Staff
In July 2018, Jason Lisi was appointed the new Chair of Ryerson University’s School of Graphic Communications Management (GCM), a leading graphic communications school with 640 full-time students and 30 full- and part-time faculty and staff.

Lisi started teaching at Ryerson in 2003 after working in the printing industry, primarily in prepress and premedia roles. Active in critical industry standards and specification development, he currently serves as the Canadian Head of Delegation for ISO TC 130. He also served as Chair of the Curriculum Committee, leading the development of a new curriculum for GCM, now in its final year of being rolled out.

How is GCM unique from other print-related programs?
JL: We are the only degree-granting program [for the print industry] in Canada and only one of a few in North America. This fall we will bring in our largest first-year class ever at just over 190 students. Looking at year-over-year figures, we keep increasing our enrolment as well as application [numbers]. What makes GCM unique is that while it is a four-year university program, it [offers] a hands-on, interactive experience, so students can learn a balance of theory and practical, technical and business. Critical thinking is a big part of our curriculum. From day one, we [motivate] our students to think outside-the-box and be creative with their solutions. In our new curriculum, students can take a business plan course where they [essentially] have to come up with a business plan and prove it can [be implemented] or a thesis-style course to help prepare them for possible future graduate studies. It’s a huge undertaking. What’s exciting is that some graduates over the years have actually taken the business plan they’ve created at GCM and launched businesses.

Why was a new curriculum needed?
JL: There were a couple reasons why we wanted to update our curriculum; the first reason being how we were teaching the courses hadn’t changed in about 25 years. The content was constantly being updated so students were being taught the latest and greatest but the actual way the courses were structured was reminiscent of how the industry was 25, 30 years ago. We realized that if we kept going with this, eventually it would become very difficult to upgrade the curriculum to remain relevant. We did a huge amount of consultation with our advisory council, alumni, students and vendors when [designing] the new curriculum to see what they felt should be included. The goal was to create a new curriculum with built-in flexibility and adaptability, so as the industry continually evolves, we can evolve with it.

We have always been first and foremost a print school, and with the new curriculum, we’ve strengthened that commitment. In the old curriculum, students didn’t have many choices — the [program] was the same for all students with the exception of their liberal studies courses. With the new curriculum, we’ve introduced concentrations so students can choose specific courses and gain [expertise] in areas such as packaging, advertising or digital printing.

Any recent investments at GCM?
JL: We’ve recently invested in a number of packaging equipment pieces — one is a machine that will apply top and side labels to little jars; another is a machine that will do foil wrapping for items like chocolate bars and granola bars.

We’re [focused] on expanding our offerings in packaging right now, as we’re now well-established in lithographic printing, digital printing and wide-format inkjet. We’re very fortunate to have tons of support from the industry. What’s key is that these aren’t one-time donations but longtime relationships that really enable us to do what we do.  

How would you describe print’s evolution?
JL: From what I’ve seen, printers have gone from specializing in one thing and doing it exceptionally well to having to offer a variety of different solutions, while still doing them exceptionally well. You can’t just be a lithographic printer anymore, you have to be a lithographic printer with wide-format capabilities and digital presses as well as some bindery capabilities and in-house prepress. [Today’s printers] have to be able to offer a client who wants multiple solutions all of those options. It’s really a testament to just how [agile] our industry is. Of course, there will always be some growing pains when [an industry evolves] but in my opinion, the industry is stronger now than it’s ever been.

What excites you most about print?
JL: Everything — when I see what is capable today, it just blows my mind. While the print industry is classified as a manufacturing industry, it’s [unique] in that every single job that is completed is a custom job — there are no two products coming off a press that are identical. It’s a really exciting industry to be in, one that is constantly evolving and it keeps getting better and better. I always look forward to seeing what’s next.

This Q&A was originally published in the September 2018 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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