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Message to the Class of 2021 from Mikey Award recipient Daniella Kim

Leah Pistorius
July 2, 2021

HCDE presented the department's annual award, the Mikey Award, to affiliate instructor Dr. Daniella Kim. Dr. Kim received the award at the 2021 Graduation & Awards ceremony on June 9, and had the following message for the graduating students.


First of all, thank you, truly, to the amazing HCDE faculty who nominated me for this award.

But equally as important, thank you to the all the students that I have had the privilege of teaching.

I can say, without question, that I have learned more from the excellent and wise students that have been in all these classes than I can ever have “taught” them.

Students that have been in my class probably know that I do not have a HCI background. I received my degree from the Speech and hearing Sciences department here at the University of Washington. My area of interest was in psychoacoustics - investigating how babies perceived and hear streams of sounds, especially music.

Unbelievably, to me, it was not a hard transition from psychoacoustics to human-centered design. There was always more to the story than psychometrics. Recording the lived experiences of how humans interact with their world and environment was beautiful, poetic, and real. These lived experiences speak for themselves, and the way HCDE wants to describe and improved these experiences is more magical than I could have ever described.

I spent a number of years teaching at the Art Institute of Seattle, and then back in Speech and Hearing Sciences. But I never felt that I had a home until I came to HCDE. Every quarter in every year I have taught since 2015, I have met the most inspirational, wonderful, and truly surprising people who have turned students and friends. I have met people transitioning from being a nurse to a designer. An engineering manager wanting to learn a new craft. Healthcare practitioners, including doctors, nurses, and faculty, who want to learn more about the human-centered practice. because they realize, at the very core, that the success of their work depends on understanding the humans that they’re treating, developing for, teaching, and designing for.

As I have bumbled along in HCDE, learning new methods, new theories, and ways to apply science in our classes, my own perspective and scope has greatly increased. Have you ever “gone to the island” with Elin? Have you literally challenged your assumptions with Tyler’s cultural probes? Have you seen the value of doing “chair-side” usability evaluations with Rebecca? Have you laughed and been entertained by the humble Andy while still learning about physical prototyping?

Speaking of “chair-side” – we have not been actually in-person since Winter 2020. The panic and fear of the global pandemic was tangibly real. Most of you stopped going to “in-person” school in Winter 2020. In the beginning of the pandemic, we surveyed students in Spring 2020. We asked them in our Mixed Methods class “What is causing you the most stress right now”? Here are some samples from this survey:

I'm stressed about getting my portfolio together, the situation might go worse and the quarantine might extend and influence next quarter or even the future job market

The amount of work I have this quarter gives me stress, I'm stressed about me or my family members getting COVID-19, I'm stressed because I am wearing many hats right now (student, parent, teammate, home-schooler, worker), I'm stressed about getting a job or internship, I'm stressed about getting my portfolio together, I'm stressed because my personal circumstances are not ideal (could be roommate, living situation, partners, etc), I'm stressed because its really hard to not see my friends

My capstone project has been a little stressful as well as trying to get things done for job hunting when I graduate. I also found out this week that my grandfather's nursing home had a case of COVID. He is fine and has not contracted it but I'm definitely worried about it spreading there.

I am locked inside all day long, my apartment-mates are not home, I am alone all day, I only see faces and hear voices of strangers walking outside from my window or people in the class on Zoom, days are longer, I am tied to the laptop all day, work doesn't get completed at all, I am worried about assignments, I can't process much these days, I frequently get anxious to the point of a breakdown, I can't take time off because assignments are due back to back and there is just no time or space, work is taking more time than expected, quality of work is very bad, food and sleep schedules are wrecked, can't talk to people anymore, prefer being alone and numb, cry often, feel sick often, have to read and re-read again and again to process anything at all, life is passing in a blur, I have made no real connections, I am going to be alone for the rest of my life.

You were frustrated with the interactions on Zoom.
You were concerned for your health and your family members
You were feeling disconnected to your friends.
You felt a real sense that you could get COVID.

But for many of you, who are graduating today – this is for you. You’re the reason that I’m here. You have shown incredible flexibility. You have been resilient. I have broken down and cried with you. I have celebrated your milestones with you. You have probably completed at least four full quarters of school online. You have made incredible lasting friendships. You have learned new methods. You have seen each other’s pets. You have worn pajamas all day. You have juggled, designed, critiqued, and felt relief. You have made it.

You continue to be the teachers and the reasons we are all here, and for that, I thank you, deeply. Thank you for letting me walk alongside you. And thank you for this incredible honor of receiving the Mikey award.

— Daniella Kim

The Myron L. White Award, or the Mikey Award, is named after the co-founder of the department. It is presented annually by HCDE faculty to leaders in the field and dedicated friends of the department.