Alumni Profile: Emma Rose (MS 2002; PhD 2011)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Emma Rose
Emma Rose

This article originally appeared in Designing Up, HCDE's annual magazine.

Dr. Emma Rose (MS 2002, PhD 2011) credits HCDE with giving her the connections to design for social good.

Emma Rose joined HCDE as a Master’s student in Technical Communication in the year 2000, armed with an undergraduate degree in English, an interest in technology, and a passion for making the world a better place. 

“I had been working in web development but didn’t necessarily see myself as ‘just a coder,’” Rose recalls. Looking for a way to use her technical skills to impact social change, she enrolled in Professor (now Emeritus) Judy Ramey’s class on usability testing. “It was in that class when I thought: ‘I found it.’ I found what I needed to be doing. Listening to people and making things work better―usability integrated so many things that I was passionate about.” Rose put usability research and testing into practice while doing her Master’s thesis, where she evaluated the usability of digital transportation information for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

After Rose graduated, Professor Ramey connected her with Suzanne Boyd―HCDE Affiliate Professor and CEO of Anthro-Tech. Rose spent 10 years at Anthro-Tech, a user-centered design consultancy and a member of HCDE’s Corporate Affiliates Program. She conducted research and lead user-experience projects for non-profits and government agencies as a consultant and as the Director of Research. At the same time, she was visiting campus in the evenings to teach classes in technical writing and usability for the department, sharing her industry perspective as a practicing UX professional with HCDE students.

Rose also continued her studies by returning to HCDE as a student in 2006, this time to work on her PhD. She became increasingly interested in improving technologies for resource-constrained populations. “Completing my doctorate in HCDE was very eye-opening,” Rose said. “I had the opportunity to delve deeper into research in human computer interaction. This including working with Professor Beth Kolko researching mobile phone usage in developing countries and conducting ethnographic research in Kyrgyzstan which became part of my dissertation.” 

Today, Rose is an Assistant Professor at UW Tacoma in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and a Research Associate at the Center for Data Science. Teaching courses in Writing Studies and Communication, she helps students make connections between writing, design and usability. “I’m always reminding my students that human-centered design is about understanding people and delivering communication that works for that audience―it’s the same philosophy of rhetoric and writing.” In her research, she continues to look for ways that design and research can support and empower resource-constrained populations. One of her current research projects looks at how students decide to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities, and what types of programs can increase the participation of underrepresented students (including women and people of color). She remains highly connected to HCDE: she visits the department as a guest lecturer; she serves on HCDE PhD committees; she sponsors student projects; and she is working with Andrew Davidson’s research group to create and package a participatory design curriculum that teaches high-schoolers about the user centered design process.

Rose reflects on her history with the department, saying “HCDE taught me the importance of paying attention to people’s voices, whether in the classroom, when designing, or when conducting research. “Without the education, connections, and opportunities the department has provided me with, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”