Professor's Computer Knowledge Enlightens Schools
For nearly 30 years, associate professor Elizabeth Heil of Roanoke College's art department has been working with computer graphics. With the help of a grant from the Cabell Foundation, Heil pioneered the College's use of computers in the art department and established its computer graphics lab.
"In the beginning, it was a confusing yet exciting time with a lot of unknowns and trials. Teachers were afraid of the technology; today, the teachers can't even imagine working without them," Heil says on the challenges and rewards of starting the program. "With balancing the budget in relationship to the educational need to stay abreast with technology goals at a liberal arts college, it takes a village of support."
But the artist's skills have not been limited to the college environment - her skills have reached the greater learning community of Salem and the Roanoke valley. Heil has given presentations at local high schools such as James Madison, North Cross, Salem and Lord Botetourt. She also has taught Web design to students in the gifted program at Andrew Lewis Middle School in Salem.
"I believe that the earlier students are introduced to the software and hardware, the more likely they will become part of a global Web with few language or cultural barriers," Heil says about a generation that is technologically progressing at a fast pace.
Students at the College are no different from the students at Heil's secondary schools in the way that they depend on computers for a multitude of needs that range from solving mathematical problems to purchasing movie tickets. Computers let students travel the world without leaving the campus and help them write research papers with the click of a button. The possibilities are endless and Heil is one of the first to attest to this, especially from an artist's point of view.
"One of the opportunities at the College is the growing support for computers and various peripheral devices like specialized printers, cameras and scanning equipment. The technology and the computer programs are always in flux," says Heil.
As an artist, Heil has used the development of computer graphics to her advantage. Because she has been in the field for so long, Heil's art has evolved with the technology. "With archival inks now available, I look at the faded perforated paper that held my images only 25 years ago and wonder where the next 25 years will lead me," Heil says.
A graduate of the University of Louisville with honors and a bachelor's degree in art and of Northern Illinois Univeristy with a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking and drawing, Heil has been an art professor at the College since 1986.