Laurier receives $852,000 in funding over four years to support Brantford User Experience Design (UXD) program

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Photo by Sidney MacDonald

Laurier Brantford’s user experience (UX) design program will be receiving $852,000 over the course of four years in order to support different aspects of the UXD program.

The program allows students to work with real life companies in order to solve everyday problems and use technology to find solutions for the real world, while putting a specific emphasis on experiential learning.

The donation will fund these opportunities for students, as well as the creation of a UX design sprint competition, funding for scholarships and funding work experience.

“The funding will help us to bring in students who might not be able to afford it. There’s scholarship money, and I think there are a lot of students, because of their own circumstances, they might only pick programs they can afford to get to and live near,” said Abby Goodrum, program coordinator for user experience design.

“The funding will also allow students to go and work for community organizations and non-profits that otherwise may not have been able to afford to hire our students. We thought that Scotiabank may advise against so students work for them but they were very supportive of that.”

The program is the first of its kind in Canada, with students getting a targeted approach to UX design and working with actual clientele versus figuring out the role for themselves from within a company.

“I spent about nine months doing research talking to UX designers in North America and talking to design educators who taught in programs that could be construed as being UX design. I also spent time in Norway where a form of UX design is mandated by the government before they will purchase any kind of software,” Goodrum said.

“The thing about UX design is that there hasn’t existed any programs like ours in Canada and they’re not ubiquitous around the world, so UX designers are usually trained in a lot of different disciplines; people might have gotten their degree in computer science or engineering, they may have gotten a degree in psychology.”

Another key area, scholarship funding, will allow students of all kinds to pursue a degree in UX design regardless of their background or financial situation.

“We are as attractive to young men as we are young women, we also seem to be as attractive to people who took tech courses in high school and loved it as the people who took art and design classes in high school. The nice thing is that you get this rich mix of people who just really embrace the artistry and creativity, while the others love the technology,” Goodrum said.

The last part of the funding, which goes towards the design sprint, is aimed at one particular challenge facing humanity and gives students a limited amount of time to design the technology to create a solution.

“We take on a new theme every year. This year our theme was designing for inclusivity and diversity. The way we operationalized those themes is that we do a film night about the theme, then in the spring we do a design around that theme and have a special topics course about it,” Goodrum said.

“Inclusivity and diversity is very front and centre to Scotiabank and their values are centred around [this], and that is what the keynote they held was about, ethics and design. Our theme next year is around designing for climate change.”

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