With the inaugural application phase open for less than two more weeks, officials at Santa Monica College are busy putting the finishing touches on the school’s first-ever bachelor’s degree.

The local community college is accepting applications until Jan. 15 for the interaction design program that will launch in the fall, a pathway aiming to prepare students for tech-centric jobs that have become increasingly popular in recent years.

College officials who have spent months developing the so-called IxD degree are now anxiously watching as portfolios and other student materials arrive for review. SMC is hoping to have two upper-division sections with a total of approximately 50 to 60 students.

“It’s been steadily ramping up,” said Jennifer Merlic, the college’s dean of instruction. “It’s difficult to know what to expect. … We’ll wait and see what the numbers are like. We have to be very flexible because it’s brand-new. If we find that we have a smaller pool, we might open a spring admission. But the numbers have been steadily climbing.”

To coincide with the launch of the program, school officials are planning to meet with graphic design faculty from community colleges throughout the region. Educators at other schools have expressed interest in aligning their lower-division courses with the interaction design bachelor’s track at SMC, Merlic said.

Those conversations will intensify once the curriculum is formally approved, a process that involves several governing bodies and regulatory agencies. A taskforce made up of officials from several SMC departments has been constructing classes for the program, and Merlic said all but one of the courses have been officially reviewed by the college’s academic senate and board of trustees.

SMC began accepting applications in mid-November. In early December, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges approved the college’s proposal for the new pathway. The state is expected to follow suit by this coming spring.

Meanwhile, the college has hosted information sessions in recent months to give prospective IxD candidates a better idea of what the degree entails. Three workshops were tailored for students nearing upper-division status, and one reached out specifically to freshmen. The meetings were well-attended, Merlic said.

The creation of an interaction design bachelor’s degree at SMC follows approval from the California Community Colleges Board of Governors as part of a pilot program authorized by Gov. Jerry Brown. The local college was chosen for its ability to offer a career-oriented pathway that will meet workforce needs and avoid overlap with options in the University of California and California State University systems.

Representatives from tech firms in and around Silicon Beach are part of an advisory board that will meet about twice per year to help guide the new program and make sure it’s relevant to the needs of the region’s tech industry.

The new upper-division classes will complement the existing coursework that comprises the school’s associate’s degree in graphic design.

For more information about the interaction design curriculum and the application process, visit www.smcixd.org.

jeff@www.smdp.com