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New HCI/UX Minor Promises Big Opportunities for Students

HCI_UX MinorThe Computer Science and Information Systems Department at UNA has an Industrial Advisory Board composed of business leaders from the Shoals and Huntsville areas. In 2013 one of the board members, who works for Northrop Grumman, introduced the idea of adding a program that focuses on the booming field of User Experience. Professor Dr. John Crabtree said there is a tremendous demand for talent in this discipline and that Northrop Grumman is especially interested in seeing UNA become a pipeline for graduates seeking careers in this area. “With the support and encouragement of the administration at UNA, we were able to bring representatives from many departments across campus together to design the curricula for the HCI/UX minors and complete the approval process in less than a year,” Dr. Crabtree said.

User Experience (UX) professionals are part of a recent area of the technology industry that aims to better understand the end user in order to develop more efficient products. UX professionals typically fill one of three roles: researcher, developer or designer. They work as a collaborative team to pinpoint how people use a product - a software program for example - how they approach it, how they understand it and what their limitations are, among other factors. Individuals entering the UX field are multi-faceted graduates from a varied landscape of majors.

Students pursuing majors in the areas of Art, English/Professional Writing, Psychology, Geography, Computer Science and Computer Information Systems are eligible for adding the HCI/UX concentration to their curriculum. Art Majors are typically those who enter the designer position in the field, while researchers require heavy psychology backgrounds and Computer Science and CIS Majors will fill the developer role. Geography Majors with an HCI/UX Minor will possess the skills and mindset to specialize in Geographic Information Systems, though, as Dr. Crabtree mentioned, an increasing number of software applications work with geographic features, and maps remain an important element of communication.

Dr. Crabtree said, “To create a cohesive team, communication is critical. Team members must have some knowledge, and ideally have some talent or ability, in the other areas in order to collaborate effectively. Most companies are looking for individuals with knowledge and abilities in more than one area. This minor can help graduates develop, demonstrate, and advertise those kinds of interdisciplinary skills.

“People who can produce systems with intuitive interfaces are invaluable to employers...HCI/UX is a challenging field, and this is a very exciting time to get involved in this emerging profession. Entering “user experience” into a leading job search engine returned over 175,000 hits today. Employers are looking for people who can contribute to successful projects that improve the lives of their customers.”

To learn more about the HCI/UX minor you can click here or email Dr. John Crabtree.

August 2014

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