iSchool sponsors visit from Lamar University web design students

Ferguson, John  |  Oct 06, 2017

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Lamar University visit
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Students in Interim Dean Randolph Bias's UX class interact with Lamar University students.
Randolph Bias
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Lamar University visit 2

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.”

Nordquist appointed clinical associate professor

Ferguson, John  |  Sep 25, 2017

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Eric Nordquist
Eric Nordquist
Faculty News

The iSchool’s Eric Nordquist has been appointed clinical associate professor.

An industry veteran of the user-experience field, with an educational background in experimental psychology, Nordquist has served in a variety of design, research and leadership roles at large corporations such as Boeing, Dell, General Motors and Rackspace. 

Nordquist’s career has spanned building a UX team at a design center in Singapore to designing software on a next-generation military program for Boeing. He also designed software that assembly-line workers used to do factory jobs for General Motors, and most recently he was Director of UX at Rackspace, the world’s largest managed cloud provider.

Nordquist became an adjunct faculty member of the School of Information in January 2016. This fall, he is teaching three courses on usability, designing rich user experiences, and rapid prototyping and lean UX methodologies.

“I am thrilled that we have hired Eric as our first clinical associate professor,” interim iSchool Dean Randolph Bias said. “His real-world experience as a UX practitioner and manager in leading technology companies will serve our students well, as indeed it already has when Eric served us as an adjunct professor. The list of recent iSchool MSIS grads who would volunteer ‘I landed my cool job thanks to Eric’ is large and growing. Eric understands the UX world—no kidding—as well as anyone I know.”

Q&A with Eric Nordquist

What's your vision for working with iSchool students?

My primary goal is sharing my 16 years of industry experience leading various user-experience teams to better prepare the students wanting to pursue a career in UX. We recently heard back from an industry partner who interviewed several of our students how excited they were at the ability of our students to “hit the ground running.”

As the field of UX continues to adapt and grow and new methods and tools are released, I want to ensure our students are up to speed on industry trends. As a program, the iSchool also provides an awesome opportunity for students to draw on the expertise of a very diverse set of faculty members who bring new ideas and ways of solving UX problems that are not available in all programs.

How will the UX field change in the next 5 to 10 years?

As the popularity of UX exploded over the last several years, there have been a lot of programs and certificates to educate people in order to keep up with the demand. Some of these programs have not kept such a strict focus on behavioral data-driven approaches to solving UX problems, and that is starting to become an issue. I see the UX field, in particular user research, going back to a more data-driven approach, but with methods that allow for a quickening of the pace to keep up with more agile delivery methods.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the recognition that UX-trained employees make excellent product managers. One of the barriers of entry for UX students is a lack of business acumen. We’re trying to take advantage of this by offering our students exposure to the role of a product manager—for example, in my Lean UX course—so our students are exposed to this opportunity. 

Dr. Bias receives lifetime achievement award

Ferguson, John  |  Apr 25, 2017

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Randolph Bias
Awards & Recoginition

The world’s premier organization for user experience professionals is honoring School of Information Professor Randolph G. Bias with its lifetime achievement award.

A pioneer of the user experience field, Dr. Bias spent two decades in private industry before joining the School of Information in 2003.

“What makes Randolph stand out, even above and beyond his achievements, is his commitment to bridging the gap between academia and practice. This attitude has informed everything he has done and is critical to our practice,” said Rich Gunther, executive director of the User Experience Professionals Association, in UXPA's announcement.

The organization will present Dr. Bias with the 2017 UXPA Lifetime Achievement Award during its annual meeting in June in Toronto.

“I am surprised and pleased to be honored this way,” Dr. Bias said. “I see this award as an honoring of that research-practice nexus. You know, I might assert that research without an eye to application can be sterile. And practice that is not steeped in research is likely to be haphazard. I think the field of UX will do well to be intentional about the connection.”

Dr. Andrew Dillon, dean and professor of the School of Information, said Dr. Bias’ award was well-deserved.

“Lifetime achievement awards are extremely rare, and the recipients are rightly recognized by peers as having made long-term contributions that shape a field. In Randolph’s case, his pioneering work on cost-justification for usability in design and the drive for a more scientific understanding of user experience have influenced both practice in the field and the education of generations of UX professionals. This honor is a tribute to his career and is a source of pride for all of us in the iSchool where we are fortunate to have Randolph as a colleague.”

Dr. Bias earned his Ph.D. in human experimental psychology from UT Austin in 1978. He worked as a human factors/usability practitioner for firms such as Bell Labs and IBM and co-founded Austin Usability, a small lab and consultancy where he was Chief Usability Officer. 

In that time, he also co-edited two editions of the book Cost-Justifying Usability, which helped inspire and inform a more empirical approach to usability practice.

Dr. Bias joined the School of Information in 2003. While conducting research funded by government agencies such as the NSF and NIH and large companies like IBM and Microsoft, he has continued to consult with high-tech companies. In 2016, Dr. Bias and his recent doctoral student in the Texas iSchool, Hans Huang, won the John Wiley Best JASIST Paper Award for the best article published in the Journal of the Association of Information Science & Technology.

UXPA has 50 chapters around the world and members from 60 countries. It supports people who research, design and evaluate the user experience of products and services.

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