As students at Lamar University in Beaumont continue to rebuild following Hurricane Harvey, the Texas iSchool welcomed 16 of them for two days of shared learning on Oct. 5-6.
An estimated two-thirds of Lamar’s students were affected by the hurricane, which ravaged much of Southeast Texas in late August and early September. According to Texas iSchool Interim Dean Randolph Bias, the School of Information sponsored the event in order to provide a break from the students’ recovery efforts while also affording them a “glimpse of what a graduate education at the largest single-campus university in the nation might look like.”
The Lamar students in Assistant Professor Natacha Poggio's web design class participated in a shared classroom exercise with Dr. Bias’s undergraduate UX Design class and received a tour of the Information eXperience (IX) Lab by iSchool faculty members Dr. Jacek Gwizdka and Eric Nordquist, in addition to a subsequent tour of the IBM-Austin Design Center.
“Lamar students received lots of feedback from the ‘fresh set of eyes’ of their UT iSchool peers,” said Poggio, who is a UT Austin MFA graduate as well as a former usability student of Dr. Bias’s. “It was also very good to see how empowered my students felt when explaining the concepts, and at the same time, receiving critiques from UT helped them improve their works in progress.”
Lamar students said the experience with the iSchool would help as they build on ideas for the apps they’re designing as class projects. “Their suggestions to improve my wireframes really changed the way I perceive the use and functionality of my app,” said one student. “They had ideas that I have never considered and introduced a way for it to stand out against other apps.”
UT Austin Dean of Graduate Studies Mark Smith also spoke to the Lamar students about their option to pursue a graduate degree at UT. Praising their undergraduate efforts, he invited those who were considering a graduate education to apply to UT.
Poggio's students felt empowered to share the knowledge they had received in her web design class with the students in Dr. Bias’s class, she said. “Every student I asked today said that it was an experience that gave them confidence—that what they are learning at Lamar University can be put to good use in the industry,” Poggio said, also reporting that one student was “glowing by the fact that one of the UT students said her wireframes were as professional quality as the ones she had seen in an internship over the summer.”
Dr. Bias noted that he had asked the iSchool staff, students, and faculty if they’d help give their East Texas higher-education colleagues an experience. “Every single person I asked jumped in selflessly, creatively, contributing their time and talent,” he said. “We all learned. It’s not a ‘zero-sum game’; we made the pie bigger.”