You can get a degree in what?

Two new programs have recently received approval  at Laurier’s Brantford Campus: User Experience Design (UX), and Work and Employment, both which will be starting in fall 2017.

The UX program was approved on Nov. 4 2016, and is run by Dr. Abby Goodrum. It is a four-year program collaborating with Conestoga College. Graduates will receive an Honours Bachelor of Design in User Experience Design, as well as a graduate certificate from Conestoga.

“User Experience Design is a holistic method of designing from a user’s perspective,” explained Goodrum.

The Laurier website states the following, “The program will allow students to develop skills in design thinking, interaction design, information architecture, project management and entrepreneurship, in addition to working directly with local companies and community organizations to create design solutions for their content, products, and service needs.”

The process of getting the program approved was very time-consuming. The approval itself was delayed as well, as we are very late into the recruitment stage for high school students who apply in December. This would allow less time for high school students to learn about the program.

“It was hard, there were a lot of internal and external checks. It took about a year to get it through all of the internal processes. When it went to the ministry for approval that was back in maybe May or June, and then we waited until recently when we got the announcement,” said Goodrum.

The paperwork process and approval weren’t the only thing that took majority of time. To have an actual solid case as to why this program would be beneficial, Goodrum spent most of her time researching companies who already use UX designers for their benefit.

“I went out and talked to UX designers and found out what they do and what they need, if they were going to hire people, who they wish they could hire. I went and I talked to over 20 companies. I talked to TD Canada, Manulife, Google, OpenText, Desire2Learn, Canadian Tire. I did real user studies with them… all the methodologies we [learn] in class to develop this program.  What you find interesting is that every company is hiring UX designers,” said Goodrum.

As part of the testing process, there was one ‘test’ class to showcase if the program could actually be successful and if students are actually engaged. There will be another this year. The class is steered at game design and technology students more so than others.

“It’s very successful for the students that knew what UX was and chose it … There are other students in the class that took it just because of their schedule. They had never heard of UX before,” said Goodrum.

By the beginning of fall 2017, Goodrum hopes she will see about 20 first-year students in the program, and an average of 60 students in the future.

Work and employment is dedicated to the Faculty of Liberal Arts, and is also new to Laurier Brantford. The program also works in partnership with Conestoga College where graduates will receive a BA along with two graduate certificates.

Dr. Robert Kristofferson is the coordinator for work and employment and will be teaching a first-year course for the program next year.

“[Work and Employment] centers on understanding the world of work, and the employment landscape in Canada and in the world in general. It’s similar in some aspects to labour studies programs that you might find at other Universities, but it is different in that it gives you much more practical training in fields that specifically have to do with employment,” said Kristofferson.

Although the course may sound familiar to human resources, it strives to reach a different goal with students.

“People your age are looking for an average of eight to 11 jobs over a course of your working life… youth unemployment is really high as well, so getting into a first job is really hard for young people. Employment and career counsellors help – they get both into and between employment,” said Kristofferson.

The Work and employment program will serve as an alternative to the concurrent education program in collaboration with Nipissing University which pulled out in 2014.

“The concurrent education program at Nipissing fell apart a couple of years ago, [so] we started thinking about what new programs that we could introduce that would be attractive to introduce, that would lead to jobs. This program sort of peculated at the top as one of those programs,” said Kristofferson.

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