Cal Poly focuses on comprehensive education, meaning that to develop the future leadership in any discipline requires educating the whole person, intellectually and with the practical and critical thinking skills needed to lead and grow a company and, indeed, an entire industry. We emphasize that in a dynamic industry, such as graphic communication, education must be ongoing to keep abreast of changing needs presently, and to learn how to forecast and adjust for future changes in business, the economy, and society—domestically and globally. To this end, a growing number of our students are pursuing graduate degrees either upon completing their undergraduate studies at Cal Poly or after gaining a few years of experience in the field. The Master’s degree program in Graphic Communications Management and Technology at New York University (NYU) has become a main source of such advanced education for graduates of Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department.

A Beginning Vision

In September 2004, printing industry entrepreneur and NYU alumnus Michael Cunningham visited Cal Poly and planted the seed that became one of the most powerful education partnerships in preparing the “new leadership” for the graphic communication industry. As a result, in 2014, Cal Poly’s Bachelor’s degree program in Graphic Communication will be celebrating 10 years as a feeder program to New York University’s Master’s degree program. It started with a vision for preparing the “new leadership” for the industry and after 10 years has exceeded its expectations.

Michael Cunningham Knows Industry and He Knows Education

Michael Cunningham founded Cunningham Graphics International that became CGII, a $150 million company in 1998 that Cunningham took public on NASDAQ. CGII then became DG3 – Diversified Global Graphics Group and Cunningham became its Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President. Today, DG3 is one of the largest financial printing companies in the world. Cunningham also holds a Ph. D. in Administration, Leadership, and Technology from New York University where he is a member of the program’s Advisory Board. Cunningham also served on Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department Advisory Board. He was recognized at Cal Poly as a Research Professor From Industry and Distinguished Scholar. He then went on to become the Dean of Business at San Diego State University and is presently Chancellor of the National University System and President of National University.

Cunningham visited San Luis Obispo to explore partnership possibilities with Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department and NYU’s program in Graphic Communications Management and Technology, as both universities were preparing students to enter the same industry; Cal Poly was preparing undergraduate students and NYU was preparing graduate students. He conferred with me as I was the longtime Department Head of Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department, and together we developed a “feeder” program providing opportunities for Cal Poly Graphic Communication graduates to enter NYU’s program. The premise was that Cal Poly graduates were so well prepared with a grounding in the structure and issues of the industry that they would be uniquely qualified to enter and be successful in NYU’s demanding graduate program. This premise has proven to be true for nearly 10 years.

 “East Meets West”

Cunningham, whose visit in 2004 resulted in the partnership called “East Meets West,” said,

“At the turn of the century, the graphic communication industry was experiencing a profound paradigm shift from analog technologies to the digital revolution. It was apparent, in order for our industry to be prosperous we needed a new kind of leadership which understood this dynamic phenomenon and who could exploit the many opportunities that lay ahead. Thus, the notion of creating a pathway for graduates from one of the premiere undergraduate programs and one of the top graduate programs was born. Under the very capable direction of Dr. Levenson from Cal Poly, and Greg D’Amico and Bonnie Blake of NYU, this partnership has exceeded all of our expectations and is truly graduating the best and the brightest our industry has to offer. I could not be more thrilled with the success of this relationship and I am thankful to both universities for a job well done.”

The Cal Poly/NYU Partnership Today

To date, 15 Cal Poly graduates are either presently enrolled or have graduated from the NYU Master’s degree program, surpassing the target of sending one student per year. Many of these students have received the Prism Fellowship Scholarship sponsored by the NYU Graphic Communications Management and Technology Advisory Board, among other industry scholarships. The Cal Poly graduates who have enrolled in the NYU Master’s degree program have invaluable internships as part-time or full-time employment while earning their degree. This is a highly natural progression as NYU’s program is closely connected with the advertising and publishing industries for which Cal Poly’s students are also uniquely prepared. The NYU Master’s degree further prepares these students to become the future leaders of these fields and particularly in New York City, the hub of advertising and publishing. As the graphic communication industry evolves in the areas of new media, it takes a special type of management thinking to help companies succeed. NYU’s program provides this level of critical thinking.

The new Chair of Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department, Ken Macro, agrees. Macro said, “Our students have benefited greatly from this relationship. Having an opportunity to work and experience the printing and publishing world in New York City is unprecedented. A Cal Poly Graphic Communication degree coupled with a Master’s degree in Graphic Communications Management and Technology from NYU provides each student with an uncontested advantage.”

Companies that employ NYU Master’s degree graduates include Random House, Razorfish, HudsonYards, Labrador, Apple, BBDO, SGS (Hong Kong), and Bonnier Corp., to name just a few.

Students Past and Present Speak Out

One of the many success stories comes from Shannon Rudd, a Cal Poly graduate who completed her Master’s degree at NYU and is the General Manager, Digital Business Development at Bonnier Corp., a global multi-platform media company and one of the largest consumer-publishing groups in America.

Rudd said, "The strong foundation obtained through Cal Poly’s learn-by-doing philosophy combined with NYU's management and leadership courses prepared me for the evolving media and publishing field as the industry briskly evolved into emerging media platforms. By combining my operations and technology background with interest in digital technologies and leadership experience, I was able to mold my skill sets to the needs of large publishers in the heart of NYC. The combination of tactile plus managerial skills learned in both programs set me up for a successful career and has provided me with a great network and advancement opportunities… never would I have thought I'd be leading one of the world's largest publisher’s digital strategy."

Another Cal Poly/NYU graduate, Ada Chan, took her education internationally and joined SGC in Hong Kong and is presently a language trainer preparing to do such training for the graphic communication industry abroad. Chan said, “I am proud to say that I am a NYU Master’s degree graduate. Having gone to NYU [after graduating from Cal Poly] was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. Receiving a graduate degree from a prestige university provided me with a highly competitive advantage GLOBALLY. I also networked with many experienced professionals as well as with fellow classmates. Needless to say, the overall experience at NYU was dynamic, valuable, and unforgettable.”

Cal Poly graduates presently in the NYU program share the same sense of accomplishment and preparation for their careers.

Ali Cameron will be graduating from NYU’s program next spring.  She is the Brand Marketing Assistant – International at Tory Birch, a promotion she earned from an earlier internship experience at the company. Cameron said, “The combination of a Graphic Communication degree from Cal Poly and a Master’s degree in Graphic Communications Management and Technology at NYU is a starting place for success. Graphic Communication at Cal Poly embodies the learn-by-doing attitude that I embrace to this day. By combining the technical expertise I gained at Cal Poly with the management skills I have learned at NYU, I am well prepared to begin a career that I am excited about.”

Blaire Pistoia graduated from Cal Poly last year and is presently in the NYU program. She is a Sales Associate at HudsonYards. She was promoted from an earlier internship at HudsonYards. According to Pistoia, “The managerial focus in NYU's program is a recipe for success in our Industry. Being a manager in Cal Poly’s student-run printing, publishing and imaging company, University Graphic Systems, was a perfect transition into the business world that NYU operates in. Countless industry professionals have been amazed by my hands-on press experiences. The knowledge of print coming from someone so young and emerging in the industry is a refreshing and hopeful insight for the future of the graphic communication field. Both the Cal Poly and NYU programs have pushed me to be my best, which I know will drive me to success.” 

A Perspective from NYU’s Leadership

Bonnie Blake, the longtime director of NYU’s program and presently a professor, was responsible for nurturing and building the NYU’s relationship with Cal Poly from the start. Blake said, “The ‘East Meets West’ strategic partnership between the Graphic Communication Department at Cal Poly and the NYU Master’s Program in Graphic Communications Management and Technology is 10 years old – and forever young. The Cal Poly/NYU students and alumni are ‘best-in-class.’ Our industry recognizes their extraordinary education, strategic thinking, positive ‘can-do’ attitude and keen insight. The visionary leadership of Dr. Michael Cunningham, Dr. Harvey Levenson and Dr. Gregory D’Amico was the basis for this successful and enduring relationship. Each year, our partnership grows stronger. I am most grateful to them and to the faculty, alumni, advisory board leaders and employers. It is such an honor to nurture, educate and prepare these students for the evolving needs of our industry across media. It is wonderful to watch them soar. Now watch them lead.”

Blake and Ansley Dunn, NYU’s Associate Director, Strategic Communications, Marketing and Media Management Programs, regularly attend Cal Poly’s three Graphic Communication Career Day events a year where companies from across the nation come to recruit graduating students for full-time positions and continuing students for internships. NYU comes to recruit graduate students and holds a special orientation prior to the start of Career Day.

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and its Graphic Communication Department 

Named the West’s best public master’s-level university for two decades by U.S. News and World Report, Cal Poly is a comprehensive polytechnic campus of about 20,000 students on California’s Central Coast. One of the most selective of the California State University’s 23 campuses, Cal Poly provides a renowned Learn by Doing education aimed at producing innovative professionals and future industry leaders in science and technology and the liberal arts (

Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department ( is one of the largest and best-known programs of its kind. It is housed in the College of Liberal Arts ( The program has concentrations in design reproduction technology, graphics for packaging, printing and imaging management, and web and digital media. It is highly technical with over 33,000 square feet of laboratories, and is strongly supported by industry with grants and endowments and with equipment, supplies and software for the department’s laboratories. The department has national accreditation by the Accrediting Council for Collegiate Graphic Communications. The Graphic Communication Institute at Cal Poly ( focuses on services for industry, including research, testing, product evaluations, consulting, training, seminars, workshops, conferences, and publishing.

NYU and its M.A. Program in Graphic Communications Management and Technology

New York University ( is one of the largest private universities in the United States. Of the more than 3,000 colleges and universities in America, New York University is one of only 60 member institutions of the distinguished Association of American Universities. Enrollment has grown to more than 40,000 students attending 18 schools and colleges at five major centers in Manhattan and in sites in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. Students come from every state in the union and from 133 foreign countries.

The M.A. in Graphic Communications Management and Technology resides in the Division of Strategic

Communications, Marketing and Media Management. The program is designed for media and communications professionals who seek to build expertise in best management practices and in emerging technology. Students acquire the strategic knowledge to lead and to manage in an increasingly global and integrated media environment. The program is aligned with current and future growth opportunities in the media and communication industry. The curriculum covers best management practices, entrepreneurial thinking, strategic sales management, executive leadership, operations management and finance to managing the media mix, global positioning in marketing, building a brand, mobile and social media management, data-driven decision making, cross media management and analysis of innovative technologies across media. Global opportunities in the program prepare students to manage relationships and resources worldwide for their companies and clients. A Global Study Week Program, “Exploring the Media Landscape” allows students to meet with leaders in the field, arranged by the program’s Advisory Board.