HCDE Graduate Student Association

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

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

The HCDE Graduate Student Association unites the student body and leaves a lasting legacy.


Gabrielle Mehlman,
2014-2015 GSA President

Hasani Burns,
2014-2015 GSA Vice-President

HCDE Graduate Student Association (GSA) President Gabrielle Mehlman and Vice President Hasani Burns are passionate about building community and leaving a lasting impression on the department.

Both Burns and Mehlman moved to Seattle for the HCDE Master’s program two years ago. “Even though the Master’s program isn’t that big, depending on people’ schedules there will be other grad students in this department that you will never see in class,” Burns describes. “Getting everyone together—either for a workshop or social event—builds a stronger community and lets us learn from each other.”

“It is also very important that we are a unified voice for the graduate students,” Mehlman added. “The GSA is a community where students can feel comfortable sharing their concerns and ideas, and we funnel those up to the department-level.”

The 2014-2015 GSA officers built an infrastructure and annual calendar around organizing workshops and student-led skillshares, and integrated first-year grad students as board members to amplify their efforts in the coming years.

More than 70 students attended the GSA’s first UX portfolio event that included panel discussions by industry guests and a portfolio workshop. “It’s really rewarding when we hear feedback from students about how valuable the workshops have been for them,” Mehlman said.

The GSA also taps into the diverse skillsets of their fellow classmates by instituting skillshares—events where current students host workshops teaching a particular software or tool. “We have been very fortunate to work with really dedicated students, alumni, and members of the community,” Mehlman said. “Everyone has been eager to help.” 

When asked what she would say to encourage other students to be involved, Mehlman said, “There’s practical reasons. It’s a great way to network with each other and meet local professionals and alumni. Of course whatever we do to help make the department stronger in turn helps our resumes look better. But then there’s the less-practical but super important reason: it’s really fun!” 

GSA Portfolio Workshop
Nick Finck, Senior Manager of User Experience at Amazon Web Services, shares interviewing tips at the GSA UX Interviewing event.

“We were just looking for a community when we started getting involved in the GSA last year,” Burns said. “Now, not only do we think we’ve left the department better than we found it, we’ve made some really great friends in the process.”

Other GSA Officers for the 2014-2015 academic year include Susan Oldham, Treasurer; Gina Donlin, Logistics Officer; Margaret Quin Lyons, User Research Officer; Joe DeMaria, Community Relations Officer; Monica Caraway, Professional Societies Liaison; Denise Borges, Content Designer & Social Media Officer; and Allan Liuk, HCDE Alumni Liason.  Learn more at hcde.uw.edu/GSA.