One of my roles as an interdisciplinary designer is that of a student leader in education. I discovered this passion when I started my undergraduate studies at the University of Houston.
Before I discovered the Industrial Design major, I joined a cohort-based service learning group known as the University of Houston Bonner Leaders. Our mission was to address social disparities in educational achievement, food insecurity, and public health and nutrition in the Houston community.
A main commitment to the program was a project assignment. I was placed into a project that helped promising yet disadvantaged high school students prepare for the SAT and apply to college.
I began in the program as a tutor and mentor to the high school students, and while I loved teaching, I immediately yearned to be on the project’s leadership team because I saw ways to improve the program and better serve the students. I addressed the organizational structure and implemented improvements:
The Website – loboprep.com
We faced the challenge of delivering worksheets and practice tests to the students and the answer sets and explanations to the mentors. Our original solution was printing hundreds of sheets before session, but this approach was wasteful and time-consuming. I used the empathy needed in design, both for the students, mentors and project leaders to design a new website to centralize the project’s educational resources.
I thought carefully about the program’s unique structure when designing the website. Two password-protected access pages were designed: one for the mentors and one for the students. The students were given the all the worksheets, the instructional manual, and resources for preparing for college. The mentors were given all these materials including the answer explanations.
The curriculum was organized by the calendar, with page hyperlinks to jump to the specific day’s session.
While the students still needed physical copies to write their notes and math problems, they used the curriculum database to reference past worksheets and catch up on work they missed. The website was also a great resource for the mentors, who read over the online documents for answer explanations, studied the problems before sessions, and referenced the materials while teaching the college curriculum.
My final improvement was a complete redesign of the program’s instruction manual to fit the project’s new brand:
I made the text and problems legible, and offered visual guides to make the diagrams more understandable. I also considered the learning format by organizing the math problems by problem type. Here are more examples of the improved manual.
This project was a great exercise in design because I learned how to serve both students and mentors using my knowledge in UX design. I used a human-centered approach that improved the outcome of our mission in addressing economic inequality in education. This experience ignited my current passion for using design in service, and it significantly motivated my later transition when I changed my major to industrial design.