A New UX for Lehman Design Students

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A New UX for Lehman Design Students

Access to real-world experience can be the difference between making it in the design industry and settling for a different career path. Students in a new course piloted at Lehman College last fall had the opportunity to learn firsthand what it’s like to be a working designer, while building a foundation for a successful future.

Titled “Design: UI/UX,” the course involved programmers, project managers, and corporate client Delta Dental, all of whom supported students in revamping a critical component of Delta Dental’s website. Students learned the basics of user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design as they reimagined how design principles can improve consumer experience.

The course was developed in collaboration with Diversify by Design (DxD), an initiative to boost minority representation in the design field. Already home to innovative academic programs that are unique in CUNY and the region, Lehman is the first educational institution on the East Coast to work with DxD since the initiative’s launch in 2021.

With the College’s focus on applied learning and career engagement, it was a perfect candidate for the program’s expansion, positioning Lehman as a destination for aspiring designers—and a source of talent for employers.

Associate Professor of digital media and graphic design David Schwittek, who played a pivotal role in bringing DxD to Lehman, said the course was far more than an addition to the curriculum.

“By exposing our diverse student body to D×D, we are not only enhancing their design literacy but also fostering a culture of creative problem-solving and critical thinking,” he said.

Lehman is also the first to offer this DxD program—called DxD Intensives—with an in-person component. At the heart of Intensives is the connection between industry professionals and academic institutions. DxD provides both with the resources and expertise necessary to create courses like “Design: UI/UX” that can transform both design education and, ultimately, the profession.

Industry partnerships generate internships and employment opportunities for students, but the benefits are mutual.

“Organizations get the beginnings of a diverse talent pipeline and a front row seat to what it truly means to be inclusive—immersed with a diverse group of talented young people, working through to an end product as seen through their lenses,” said Andréa Pellegrino, who oversees DxD at its parent organization Impact Collaborative. “These are the direct, lived experiences in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”

Delta Dental joined the initiative this past summer, led by Customer Experience Strategist Bre'Anne Sims. Sims was impressed with what she saw at Lehman.

“The collaboration throughout this program was fueled by the student’s eagerness to learn and the mentor’s motivation to inspire,” Sims said. “They were able to gain invaluable insights, best practices, and inspiration from industry professionals and mentors from Delta Dental. I’m so proud of the hard work and dedication that went into the student’s designs.” 

Guided by Assistant Professor of Art Shawn Cheng, students were divided into four teams, each mentored by Delta Dental program managers, designers, and developers. Teams were tasked with redesigning the “find a dentist” search function on the company website to better serve a range of customers with diverse needs.

Collaborating with design professionals and a corporate client within a course was a transformative experience for students.

“The course has increased my understanding of the reasoning of why we are doing things, not just so they’re pretty but so they’re functional,” said Kevin Crespo, who will graduate in the spring. “The workshops presented challenges that I had not been exposed to before, and the Delta Dental team provided helpful general insight and guidance. They would see things that as a student I would not notice. This pushed me to think outside the box and to take users into consideration.”

Junior Marilyn Cadena—like several of her peers—was initially intimidated by the prospect of working with professionals, but she soon rose to that challenge. “It was the best class I’ve taken so far,” she said.

And hopefully it will be her steppingstone to a future in design.

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