Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The HCI Specialization

Many of you have dreams of becoming User Experience Researchers & Designers. You have plans of joining the bustling Human Computer Interaction (HCI) specialization here at the University of Michigan.

By choosing UMSI you will enter into a league of talented and driven colleagues and professors who create amazing work.  

Learn more about HCI at SI:

QuikOrder, a UX project conducted by UMSI students as part of the Design Clinic Innovator Award Competition, is an example of the caliber of work produced by students. QuikOrder focused on improving the online ordering system used by Pizza Hut and took first place winning a grand prize of $5,000.

One amazing faculty member doing work in HCI is Paul Resnick (with whom I had the pleasure of taking a class on introductory Python programming in the fall term). In fact, Professor Resnick was recently elected to the prestigious CHI Academy!!

Some of his research projects include:
  • Software that helps journalists identify rumors on Twitter
  • Investigating if accountability through social media can increase commitment to health goals

Additionally many of your colleagues will go on to obtain great positions at top companies. Learn more about grad Nikki Roda who works as an Interaction Designer at Goldman Sachs:

[Pro Tip: A great thing about UMSI is that you can remain part of the listserv post-graduation. Many people use this listerv to send job postings.]

Monday, February 13, 2017

S is for Service

Some would say the S in UMSI is for Service, because here we’re all about Service through Information. Honestly, UMSI BY FAR had the most service opportunities out of all the other programs I considered. It’s crazy impressive really.

Some opportunities include:

I participated in this in the Fall on one of the teams. We met with our organization, The Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation (NAP) to understand their data needs. Then on the day of the dive (a day long data analysis event), with the help of volunteers we were able to parse through the NAP data and present our findings in the evening.
This is coming up in about two weeks! It’s an opportunity to engage in a social impact project during the break instead of catching up on work (like me) or working on your tan. So noble! The projects are generally local in cities such as Detroit or Chicago.
This happened at the beginning of winter term and consisted of a series of 2-hour data analysis/visualization sessions to help local organizations. This year’s organizations included Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, Friends in Deed, CivCity, Ann Arbor District Library, People Against Xenophobia, and more.
This is a year-long partnership with a city to facilitate sustainable projects. Students are supported by staff who help manage the projects.
Theses are arranged on an ad-hoc basis and generally run through the academic school year. The project types can vary from website usability to app development to facilitating technology adoption.
I remember being really stoked when I learned about this program during visiting weekend! Completing a summer internship is part of the degree requirement to graduate from UMSI. Through this program you can obtain internship credits, travel abroad (this year is South Africa), and offer your services to an organization in need.

And the icing on the cake? Through service you not only positively impact communities using your developing skills, but you also further cements your skills in preparation for future jobs:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


You’ve got questions, we’ve probably already got answers.

Admission Woes
  1. When will I hear about my application decision?

It typically takes six to eight weeks to get a response from us after the review of applications start. We begin to review applications after our application deadlines. For the PhD this would mean review will start after the December 1st deadline. For the Master’s programs this means after the January 15th deadline.

  1. What does it mean if I am conditionally admitted?

It means we are waiting to receive your official transcript. After which we will change your status to “regular”.

Degree Details
  1. Are there any prerequisite classes? [AKA I don’t know any programming!!!]

No there aren’t. Students from all undergraduate majors and with a wide range of academic coursework are admitted.

However should you select the more analytical specialty of Information Analysis &
Retrieval, if you do not have programming experience, we recommend that you study enough programming during the summer to waive out of at least the first level programming course. Preparatory study material will be sent during the summer for admitted students.

  1. Does UMSI accept transfer credit?

After you’ve completed 8 credit hours in good standing here at UMSI, you will have the ability to transfer up to 6 graduate-level credits in which you obtained a B letter grade or higher. However, these course must no have been used towards any other diploma or certificate.

  1. What are some classes offered at UMSI? And what are they like?

While lectures may be 100+ students, discussion sections are generally capped at 20 students. This allows for more instructor/student interaction. Also there are a LOT of group projects in UMSI. It’s a way to collaborate with people from different ideologies and experiences. At first I dreaded it, as my prior experiences with group projects hadn’t been the best, but my team dynamics at UMSI have been fluid and very productive.

Mo’ Money
  1. What sort of funding or scholarships does your school offer? [AKA How can I make this amazing degree affordable?]

All UMSI departmental funding is in the form of merit tuition scholarships. UMSI merit scholarships range from partial to full tuition coverage, with possible additional benefits, (regardless of residency status) for four semester of full-time MSI coursework.

Additionally many students obtain Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) positions or relevant part-time jobs during the year to help cover the cost of tuition and living expenses. Part-time jobs are rather easy to secure as there are many opportunities emailed through the UMSI listserv.

City Scoop
  1. What’s Ann Arbor like?

Ann Arbor is a quaint town, with lots to do despite it's size. Many cultures are represented here and you can find food (restaurants, grocers) from all over the world. It's pretty safe here, so walking about at night is generally not an issue. Public transportation is phenomenal moving around Ann Arbor and the neighboring town of Ypsilanti; there's even a bus that will take you straight to the Detroit Airport and an Amtrak station. The nature is gorgeous, with lots of nearby parks such as The Arboretum.