Paying it Forward

Monday, March 18, 2013

HCDE MS alumna Chelsey Glasson uses her ninja UX skills for good.

Chelsey Glasson graduated with a Master of Science in Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) in 2011.Chelsey Glasson graduated with a Master of Science in Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) in 2011. She recently moved to Udacity as their lead user researcher.

Udacity is a startup based in the Bay Area that, according to Glasson, is "trying to democratize higher education so that people who would not otherwise be able to can easily access high-quality education at no cost." Throughout her studies and career, Glasson has felt strongly about "giving back to society" through her work.

As a graduate student in HCDE's MS program, Glasson participated in HCDE Professor Julie Kientz's directed research group on persuasive technologies, where she worked on evaluating technologies that encourage users to make better choices about things like diet, exercise, or sleeping habits that can lead to healthier lifestyles. Reflecting on Glasson's involvement, Kientz said, "Chelsey was always really pleasant to work with, had a ton of great ideas and contributions, and really was a huge help with the group.... We also published a paper at the International Health Informatics symposium on the work we did."

Glasson says that one of her favorite things about HCDE is its directed research groups. The groups provide a unique opportunity to students, where they have the chance to use the concepts they learn in the classroom to solve real-world problems. Glasson directly credits her participation in Kientz's group to obtaining her first user experience (UX) research internship at T-Mobile. In fact, one of the only things she regrets about her graduate experience is not participating in more research groups.

Glasson's classmates were also one of the best things about her experience. Due to the diverse backgrounds that students in the MS program had, Glasson says she "learned just as much" from her classmates as she did from the faculty, and working with people from so many different fields and professions gave her a taste of what it would be like to work as a UX researcher in the field.

Glasson was hired by Salesforce upon finishing her MS degree, and she says the challenges she would be working on and the colleagues she would be working with were fundamental in the reason she chose to work there. Thus, it was difficult for Glasson to move to Udacity, but in the end, Udacity's commitment to providing free access to higher education was the deciding factor.

Glasson says she would not have gotten to where she is today without the help and support of mentors. She has therefore promised herself to "pay it forward," and she is currently fulfilling her promise by guest editing a career-focused issue of UX Magazine. Glasson also enjoys mentoring aspiring UX professionals and has maintained close ties to her classmates in HCDE.

This article was originally published in the 2013 issue of Designing Up.