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Notes on the Creative Class

The Creative Class: The Foundation of a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry Powered by Columbia College’s Fuel for Change 

Columbia College students are part of a new class of professionals, endowed with technical skills and creative inspiration. These college-educated professionals evolved from Peter Drucker’s notion of the knowledge class. They rely primarily on their creative acumen to think through new approaches for fixing problems and exploring more efficient ways to apply technology for entertainment, educational, or informational purposes.  

Columbia College Chicago has the capacity and expertise to build upon this content, and has fueled a new generation of specialists that University of Toronto Professor Richard Florida has called “The Creative Class,” a “fast-growing, highly-educated and well-paying segment of the workforce [on] whose efforts corporate profits and economic growth increasingly depend.” (Richard Florida, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” The Washington Monthly. May 2002, Page 2.) 

Florida adds, “Members of the creative class do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries—from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts. They do not consciously think of themselves as a class. Yet they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit.” (Richard Florida, “The Rise of the Creative Class,” The Washington Monthly. May 2002, Page 3.) 

Florida continues, “Chicago, a bastion of working class people that ranks among the top twenty large creative centers, is interesting because it shows how the creative class and the traditional working class can co-exist. But Chicago has an advantage in that it is a big city, with more than one million members of the creative class. The University of Chicago’s Terry Clark likes to say that Chicago developed an innovative and culture solution to this issue. Under the second Mayor Daley, the city integrated the members of the creative class into the city’s culture and politics by treating them essentially as “another ethnic group” that needed essential space to express itself. (Ibid. Page 7.) 

“Create Change. ” That’s our college’s slogan, mantra, and voice of our student body. With more than 120 academic programs and over 12,000 students, Columbia College Chicago is the largest and most diverse private arts and media college in the nation, where developments in technology are creating change in media, arts, and entertainment industries. Because of our size, Columbia College offers an unparalleled array of courses with exceptional technological resources in the heart of one of America’s greatest cities.  

Due to the demand for more professionals to produce newer and innovative digital and virtual technology services and products, Columbia College Chicago enjoys a 5–7 percent annual enrollment increase, and is also the largest real estate owner in the South Loop owning or occupying twenty-six buildings. 

The creative class fuels economic development in cities like Chicago primarily because of the consumer’s increased demand for goods and services that are unique and cutting edge. Whether it’s an iPod, Mp3 player, or a video game, technological innovations in the entertainment, media and communications industries help fuel the imaginative capacity in our students and our graduates respond by commoditizing their creative talent in the employment market. 

Why Are Students Choosing Columbia?
The mission of the college hasn’t changed: we continue to educate students who will communicate creatively and shape the public’s perceptions of issues and events. Our students realize that Columbia College offers cutting-edge technology in its classroom—from the latest animation software to MIDI machines. In short, we are the lens behind the lens by which the world learns and is entertained. 

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, cities like Chicago are now coming to a crossroads. In a knowledge economy, where technology and art intersect, the next generation of skilled workers is creating value in the digital and virtual worlds. For example, telecommunications, entertainment, and media industry are transforming consumer systems from analog to digital end-use processes, changing how people work and learn through the use of computers and digital technology. Motion capture technology that powers our games are also transforming product design and are quickly changing the way we entertain ourselves. 

Profile on a Columbia Alum and Student
Phil Tadros is a Columbia alumnus. Crain’s and the New York Times’ blog dubbed him as a “serial entrepreneur.” Phil is the owner of the Dollop coffee shop at 4181 North Clarendon in Chicago and another coffee shop he’s named Noble Tree: coffee and tea at 2444 North Clark. Phil is also the creator of a social network called “Metroproper” (

Realizing that his own coffee shop needed better exposure outside the Buena Park and Lincoln Park communities, Phil launched Metroproper with the idea that small, community-based businesses like his would have a greater web presence within a virtual community where customers may easily interact to seek local businesses in their real, off-line communities. In launching, Phil envisions a virtual network of coffee shop-style communities where customers may identify, use, and rate local retail business in their communities on line.  

Phil’s vision of a real and virtual place for networking characterizes Florida’s notion of a creative class, a generation of youth with hard skills in technology matched with creative talent who find value by exploiting newer uses in interactive technology. Unlike other popular social networks, Phil envisions Metroproper as being more productive and useful for consumers seeking out local resources and people in their communities. 

John Mokate is a junior television major at Columbia. Unlike the older generation of television majors, John wants to apply his skills in the relatively unknown (and so far, uncensored) realm of the cyber world.  

John’s vision is web writing, producing skits and shows on the web. He feels “the Web is going to be the new medium, allowing more freedom with fewer restrictions (than television) and ultimately, more advertising opportunities allowing lower barriers to entry for both producer and advertiser.” 

Not surprisingly, John’s skills—both “virtual” and real—have intersected in Phil’s world. In addition to being a Dollop coffee shop employee, John also works as a producer for Metro Blurb, the weekly news show offered on, a near perfect venue to apply his television production and web-writing skills, John writes the weekly scripts, directs the shots and makes key decisions on news clips members upload and share on John says “Metro Blurb” is a response to what people post as noteworthy news clips of the week. These clips are voter-based social book markings on current events, health tips and other news-worthy items.” 

Both Phil and John are under thirty, entrepreneurial, and apply their business and creative acumen to build a service of value to the communities where they live and serve. Even though they represent a small sample of Columbia College alums and students, they nonetheless set the bar to what our other alums and students can achieve through their creative talent—the capacity of creating change in their worlds, virtual, and real.