The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Month: June 2021

Brandeis GPS Student Spotlight

Amalia Cesare ‘21

User Experience Writer at The Vanguard Group in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

Program: MS in User-Centered Design 

In her spare time, Amalia loves to explore the many trails in her area while she trains for a half marathon with her husband. During quarantine, she picked up gardening as a hobby and she is currently starting her second batch of seedlings to plant for the summer. She also lives in an area that is heavily concentrated with breweries, so she has enjoyed trying new suds and logging them on Untappd!

Get to know Amalia Cesare! 

Why did you choose Brandeis GPS?

I chose Brandeis for several reasons. I was looking for a program that would fit into my life in a realistic way. I have two bonus kids, a full-time job, and when I started the program I had recently become a new homeowner and was planning a wedding. Life was chaotic to say the least! I wanted a program that offered top-tier education while also offering me the flexibility to meet my other obligations. I also needed a program that was fully remote because I was not in a position to relocate.

What inspired you to choose your field of study?

The short answer is that I was both inspired and frustrated by my experience in the IT field. As a technical writer, I was essentially the first user of a product. My engineers would hand over a final build and ask me to document it. This process exposed a lot of product and experiences issues that we just didn’t have the bandwidth to fix based on where my work fell in the product development life cycle. I wanted to move into User Experience and position myself at the beginning of the product life cycle because I wanted to be able to design meaningful experiences and effect positive change for the users of the products I was working on. 

How have you enjoyed your experience at Brandeis thus far? 

To say that I’ve loved my experience at Brandeis would be an understatement! Brandeis has given me so many things: a chance to learn from industry experts, the opportunity to learn through doing, the ability to network with others in the industry, and the confidence to step out of my comfort zone. At my previous employer, I was able to take on additional responsibilities as a UX Designer/Writer in addition to my role as a technical writer. Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to start a new position as a User Experience Writer with The Vanguard Group. My experience at Brandeis gave me the knowledge and confidence to nail my interviews.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the rest of your time at Brandeis? 

I’m planning to complete my program in June of 2021. I hope that, during this time, I can continue to grow my UX network and showcase the knowledge I’ve accumulated with my capstone project. I also hope to continue mentoring students that are new to the program so they can have a successful and enjoyable experience at Brandeis!

What are your plans for after graduation?

While I don’t have any specific plans for after graduation, I’m hoping to continue learning and growing in my new role as a UX Writer. In the future, I’m hoping to transition into UX Research.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

Overall, I think the best advice that I could give to incoming students is to not rush through the program if you don’t have to. I’ve taken one class a session, which felt slow to me at first, but I’m so glad that I did. It gave me the opportunity to really focus on and absorb the material I was learning and to enjoy the process of gaining new skills. I’d also echo the advice of many others and say that you should never be afraid to ask questions! I came into this program without a background in design and was worried that it would put it at a disadvantage; it didn’t. If you have a question, just ask. There are many others in your class that have the same question (trust me!) and you’re not going to look silly for asking. This is the best opportunity to further your knowledge and level the playing field!

What has been your favorite class to-date? 

My favorite class so far has been Information Architecture! It was one of the more challenging classes that I’ve taken in the program, but coming from an English background, understanding how tightly language is tied to positive and usable experiences made me feel like I had the ability to apply my existing expertise in a new field. It was also my first exposure to user research, which was both exciting and terrifying! Having to conduct tests with users took me out of my comfort zone, but it has grown into an experience that I love.

For more information on the User-Centered Design program, visit: https://www.brandeis.edu/gps/academics/user-centered-design/index.html.

Rabb School 2021 Commencement Ceremony Celebrates Communication, Helping Others, and Growth

The Rabb School of Continuing Studies awarded diplomas to 108 Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) students at its 2021 commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 23. Although a virtual experience will never be able to replace the gravitas of an in-person ceremony, we do sincerely hope everyone enjoyed the stream, and we are very proud of all of our graduates for their tremendous accomplishments!

Rabb School of Continuing Studies is one of the four schools at Brandeis University. Dedicated to providing working professionals a world class education, Rabb continuously innovates its approach to teaching. The GPS students who have earned their master of science degrees today have done so fully online, with many of them working full-time jobs. 

Arthur Harvey, this year’s commencement keynote speaker, is an alumni of Brandeis GPS graduating with an MS in Information Technology Management degree. For the past 35 years, Harvey has worked in healthcare informatics with expertise building high-performing teams at provider organizations. He currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Boston Medical Center Health System, and is on the Brandeis GPS Health Informatics advisory boards. 

“The most valuable lessons I took from my time as a graduate student were not really about specifics, they were about general principles: communication, deep analysis, data-driven decision-making, and how to work with all kinds of people in all situations,” Harvey said. Quoting Justice Brandeis, he added, “Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.”

Harvey continued on to say, “I have three things I would ask you to consider as you return to the industry. First off, what is my organization trying to accomplish and how can I help? Does my team know this as well? Next, what new skills have I acquired or practiced lately? Growth is good. Lastly, what have I done recently to help along the career of one of my team members or a colleague? In my experience, we learn a lot about ourselves when we help others.”

The full breakdown of diplomas awarded is as follows:

  • MS in Bioinformatics (8 graduates)
  • MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech (3 graduates)
  • MS in Digital Marketing and Design (9 graduates)
  • MS in Health and Medical Informatics (7 graduates)
  • MS in Health Informatics (6 graduates)
  • MS in Information Security (1 graduate)
  • MS in Information Security Leadership (6 graduates)
  • MS in Information Technology Management (1 graduate)
  • Graduate Certificate in Learning Analytics (1 graduate)
  • MS in Learning Experience Design (1 graduate)
  • MS in Project and Program Management (36 graduates)
  • MS in Robotic Software Engineering (2 graduates)
  • Master of Software Engineering (6 graduates)
  • MS in Strategic Analytics (12 graduates)
  • MS in Technology Management (4 graduates)
  • MS in User-Centered Design (5 graduates)

View a recording of the commencement ceremony here. Congratulations again to our graduates!

Explore the Latest Design and Development Processes for Effective UX Leadership

When product development and design processes are user-centric, they become more refined and accessible to users. For that reason, companies are integrating user-centered design in their business operations to improve the user experience and engagement across company sectors. As a result, professionals specializing in user-centered design are in high demand. In fact, Glassdoor has identified UX Designer as #27 on their current list of best jobs in America. Professionals who enjoy working at the intersection of creativity, psychology and technology, and who are curious about how design affects learning and behavior, are discovering ways to set themselves apart from their fellow user-centered designed peers. Our MS in User-Centered Design program is an option.

The fully online master’s degree at Brandeis GPS is designed to strike a balance of theory and practice in applying psychological principles and user research to create useful and innovative user experiences. Students explore the latest design and development processes while building the management and collaboration skills essential for effective UX leadership. Upon degree completion, students are equipped to:

  • Master interaction design and information architecture tools and techniques, including design ideation and prototyping.
  • Understand and apply the physical and psychological human factors that impact how users interact with digital products and technology.
  • Hone your skills in design thinking, qualitative and quantitative research and evaluation, and leadership.

When we asked Theresa, a User-Centered Design graduate, about the program, this is what she said,

“While a student at Brandeis, I discovered new opportunities and pathways for professional growth that I never realized existed.”

The GPS community extends beyond our online classrooms. Students have the opportunity to expand their professional circles and build meaningful connections with our faculty, program chairs, and advisory board members. In addition, our programs are designed to help students balance a graduate education with a full-time job and other professional, academic, or personal commitments. We will also offer a full-time learning option for our MS in User-Centered Design program. You’ll have the opportunity to complete your graduate degree in one year. 

For more information on the User-Centered Design program or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

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