fbpx 2022 Open House Award Winners | UT iSchool | The University of Texas at Austin

2022 Open House Award Winners

Vanesa Ayon and Karla Roig Blay

Congratulations to the 2022 Dean’s Choice Award and Diversity & Inclusion Award winners!

The School of Information’s annual spring Open House virtual event showcases graduating student’s capstone projects and highlights the latest in digital libraries and archives, data analysis, information architecture and organization, user experience research and design, and much more!

View all spring 2022 capstone projects. 


Dean’s Choice Award Winner: Vanesa Ayon

Dean Eric T. Meyer is pleased to present the Dean’s Choice award to Vanesa Ayon!

“I really enjoyed talking with all of this year’s Dean’s Choice finalists,” Dean Meyer said. “They represented an excellent range of the types of work students here in the iSchool do, and all were clearly deeply engaged in their projects. All of them are making an immediate difference in how information makes the world a better place.”

Roza Atarod - Loopring Application Evaluation and Redesign

Finalist Roza Atarod did background research and heuristic evaluation on Loopring, a low-fee, high-speed platform for cryptocurrency trading. Using her synthesized research data, she explored how to develop the Loopring application to serve users more efficiently and inclusively.

Elena Gonzales Melinger - Theory-Guided Approaches to User Research: Using Self Determination Theory To Guide App Design

For her project, finalist Elena Gonzales Melinger tested user interface (UI) designs for NutriMe—a proposed patient companion app for Nutri, a nutrition tool for primary care providers—using criteria influenced by Self-Determination Theory (SDT). The results of her user test will be used to uncover insights about users regarding their nutrition literacy, SDT motivation style, and user experience (UX) and UI design pattern preferences.

Emma Hetrick - Enhancing American Corners Programs in Italy

Finalist Emma Hetrick worked with library programs affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy to enhance the reading collections as well as create a better understanding of studying in the U.S. She created a virtual book tour, a bibliography of U.S. books about disability and race for young readers, participated in virtual web chats with Italian students about studying in the U.S., and participated in several virtual book club meetings and created videos for background and context.

Vanesa Ayon - Improving Skimmability: Experimental UX Research Study Tracking Screen-Based Scanning Speed

Dean's Choice Award winner Vanesa Ayon reviewed research that examines the user interface design of text presentation on the web and identified elements that facilitate scanning in a digital reading environment. Working with professor Randolph Bias, Vanesa introduced a new method of presenting text, called Mid-Word-Graying (MWG). MWG modifies the text darkness, or weight, of the inner-letters of a word, making the outside letters slightly bolder, in order to reduce crowding and aid word recognition ability. She then conducted a quantitative experimental research study in which the majority of participants positively reported that MWG facilitated skimming/scanning more quickly and with fewer errors than regular text.

“My capstone project allowed me to gain experience as an experimental scientist in a UX setting,” Vanesa said. “I worked with a hypothesis and explored secondary research findings to guide my personal experiment and data analysis. I gained experience in quantitative data analysis and interpreting a fundamental statistical significance test used in scientific research settings. Taking over the recruiting, planning, and moderating of all my user sessions helped me better understand all the applied research skills I learned in my classes and relate them to real-world industry practices. Lastly, collaborating with my supervisor helped me improve my ability to professionally communicate relevant information from requesting feedback and providing project updates to discussing analytical findings. I am very grateful for my supervisor/co-investigator’s support and guidance throughout this project as well as all the faculty at the iSchool who have mentored and prepared me to jump start my professional career as a UX Researcher.”

Dean Meyer said, “Ms. Ayon really impressed me not just with her project, but also with the extent that she engaged with new methods, new ideas, and was able to articulate how much she had gained from working on her capstone. She clearly has a bright future ahead!” Congratulations, Vanesa!


Diversity & Inclusion Award Winner: Karla Roig Blay

The iSchool’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee is pleased to present the Diversity & Inclusion award to Karla Roig Blay!

Karla Roig Blay - AAHC Data Migration: Improving Data Management and Access in Museum and Collection Records

For her capstone project, Karla Roig Blay worked with the Art and Art History Collection (AAHC), which holds over 3,000 objects primarily from the Indigenous Americas (US Southwest, Mesoamerica, and South America). This UT Austin collection is largely invisible because it is only accessible via databases hidden behind a UT-login, so Karla migrated the collection data to a Collection Management System that not only allows for the management and organization of the AAHC in a relational database but also improves accessibility and discoverability through a public-facing website that Karla helped designed. Additionally, she produced process workflow and file standardization documentation to improve the collection’s data sustainability.

"My experience at the iSchool shaped my Capstone project by fostering an in-depth understanding of how the technical skills we learn and use have a direct impact with the communities we serve," Karla said. "I came into this degree knowing that cultural heritage institutions aren't neutral, but the iSchool has helped me find practical ways to address this history, and hopefully start to remedy it. While working on this project, I have applied my technical skills and rooted them in my values to provide public access to art from culturally diverse and historically excluded communities. This means that we are including those communities to be seen and to know that their history and their art has value too in a space where they haven't historically been allowed in."

Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Edgar Gómez-Cruz, who is the iSchool D&I Committee chair, said, "The committee was greatly impressed with Karla’s work, which shows the importance of increasing the visibility of diverse histories and stories as well as the fact that many voices remain hidden. Karla’s project is a good example of the key contribution information studies can make to diversity and inclusivity." Congratulations, Karla!

May 11, 2022