For the first time, Wilfrid Laurier University’s User Experience Design (UXD) program looks to graduate its first batch of students.
Eleven students from the first cohort are expected to graduate this June.
Students in the program entered their first year as the inaugural class in September 2017. Twenty two students made up the entire cohort, and now nearly half looks to graduate this April, while the other half will graduate at a later date upon completion of co-op.
Students will be graduating with a Bachelor of Design degree from the Faculty of Liberal Arts on the Brantford campus. Many fourth year students are now looking to enter a career in that field, feeling confident in their education and experiences within the program.
“Right from day one, we were working with clients … so we really got to understand what it takes to have a professional attitude when it comes to communicating,” said Anna Bolger, fourth year UXD student.
Bolger feels that her education was very important to show how the industry will look.
“Going into the workforce I don’t feel as though I’m lacking in the professionalism department. I definitely feel quite prepared to kind of take on my own clients, and really get out into my own career.”
As the first graduating class, these students entered the program without a single expectation on what to expect. They piloted all classes from the major and got a first-hand look at the program curriculum.
As part of the first cohort, fourth year UDX student Cameron Fong knew that not everything would be perfect or optimized to get the most out of it during the pilot. In the present, he notes that there was a beneficial edge to the experience.
“That adversity, and not having something so set out in stone and something so perfect, has helped us a lot on the more personal side–especially now that we’re entering the job market,” said Fong.
The students’ suggestions and feedback over the years have not gone unheard by the department and staff. Over the years, the program curriculum has adapted with the help of feedback from students, and by taking a look at what has worked and what hasn’t.
“The 22 students who started this program four years ago have had as much of a hand in shaping what this program is like than any faculty member, any employee–anybody … They’re massively responsible for the success of the program and the way it looks today,” said Abby Goodrum UXD Program Coordinator.
While half walk across the stage in a few months, the other half will graduate with twelve to sixteen months of work experience within the industry.
Cedric Zheng is one of the students who is currently piloting the UXD co-op. He has been completing his co-op at Orbis Communications, while also working part-time at Overlap Associates. He plans to enter the workforce in a full-time capacity upon graduation.
“As soon as I got my co-op job and started working full time, I could see how many things I could apply from what I learned in class … I think the program, and all the courses, definitely prepared me for that,” said Zheng.
While the milestone of the inaugural class graduation will take place in a few months, further development and growth is on its way for the UXD program. In Spring, the entire UX minor will be rolled out as online courses. Over the next year, the remaining part of the first cohort, as well as part of the second cohort who are not doing co-op, will graduate.
About six years ago, the idea of this program came to life when Abby Goodrum began the process of planning for the UXD program. Hailing from a background in UX, human-centered design and human-computer interaction, she saw a “real need” in Canada to have a four year undergraduate program on UX.
She then began to plan for an undergraduate degree that would be the first of its kind within the country.
She took a “user-centred approach” to the development of the program curriculum, interviewing over 200 UX designers and employers of designers in Canada, the United States and Denmark.
Out of this process came a low-fidelity prototype curriculum that aimed to provide students with a broad-based education across the interdisciplinary components of UXD. Over the years, the curriculum has been adapted and optimized to provide students with a beneficial student experience and education.
In the present day, multiple milestones are being made and the program looks to grow further in the future. While the first Laurier UXD grads enter the workforce in a few months, the program will begin to prepare to welcome a new batch of undergraduate students for Fall 2021.