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Alumna teaches special topics class on user experiences

May 20, 2019

Posted in: News

By Taylor Burress, Communications Intern

Alumna Christina Dick offered a special topics class on User Experience at the Robertson School.

Robertson School alumna Christina Dick wanted to bring her industry experience back into the classroom. In the spring semester, she offered a special topics class on User Experience at the Robertson School.

“I based it on what I saw being a need in the industry,” said Dick, who graduated from VCU in 2010 and now runs her own agency Tiramisu for Breakfast.

During the first half of the semester, Dick had her students focused on learning the principles of user experience, research, user testing, and plain language. In the second half, each student was asked to put everything they learned into practice.

“They each have a passion project that they're working through, and so they're applying those same principles to something that they care about,” Dick said. “They had a couple of weeks to do a little bit of initial research and pick something, so each student has a different project that they'll turn in at the end of the semester.”

Andre Harrell, a strategic advertising senior with a minor in psychology said, “I learned more about user experience, building your portfolio, building your personas, your website, knowing that that actual people are going to actually look at your website and look at your portfolio.”

“Everything you do in your past classes, you can put in your portfolio. You just have to tailor it a little bit, so there’s no point in really stressing too much about it. This class did a really good job with helping me make a website for my portfolio,” said Jimon Boadi, a strategic advertising senior.

Harrell added, “It actually matters how you go about making it. It’s not just about you and what you like, because what you like another person might not like, so you have to kind of be transparent. You also have to understand that there's different people.”

While the course focused a lot about user experience, research, and portfolios, Dick hopes that her students will take away empathy and the power to create an influence from her teachings and apply it to their future careers.

“I think people have this impression of advertising, that it's like covering things up,” Dick said. “But where the industry is going and what it's really about is communicating in such a way that it's helpful to people. Now it's like advertising and product design, product development; everything is kind of merging.”

Harrell said, “There's a lot of hands on work, it's not just lectures. It's actually us going in and doing it and getting a lot of peer reviews from people around us. So it helps us out too. I like that about the class, it's very different.”

“As “advertisers” we have an opportunity to impact the actual making of the product and be the voice of the consumer,” Dick said. “My biggest takeaway is that, that's where the industry is going, you really have power to create an influence beyond just what you typically think of a print ad or something.”

When asking Dick what she enjoyed most about teaching this course, she was full of praise about her students.

“I liked seeing all the things that they're passionate about. They just really care about their community, their environment, other people,” Dick said. “The students are just like all of their passion projects. They're all about being ethical, like saving clothing and helping people find potholes and nothing is selfish.”

Dick added, “I just think my favorite part is seeing all the causes that each of them cares about and how much they care about other people, which is kind of what this whole user experience thing is all about.”