Presented each year by Michigan State University’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, the Experience Architecture (XA) Outstanding Senior Award went to four graduating seniors this year. A new award, the Senior Research Grant, also was presented by the department.
The XA Outstanding Senior Award recognizes XA seniors who have demonstrated excellence in the Experience Architecture Program and stand out amongst their peers. The 2023 recipients are Hillary Hemry, Emma Riddering, Kate Schleusener, and Aiden Tomkinson.
The XA Senior Research Grant was established to recognize a student working on an important project with the funds from the award serving as an investment by XA in the student and their project as they move into industry. The 2023 recipient for this award is Farjana Chadni.
Focused on improving community, collaboration, and accessibility, Hillary Hemry graduated in Spring 2023 with a B.A. in Experience Architecture. She is looking forward to moving to Ann Arbor and finding a job in User Experience (UX) design or engineering.
“I am proud to have made a lasting difference at MSU, and I am wordlessly thankful to the community that supported me throughout my education,” she said. “This award serves as a motivator for me to uplift empathetic practices in my professional efforts.”
At MSU, Hemry was dedicated to improving opportunities for XA students to become more involved in their major outside the classroom by working to re-found XA Club and eventually serving as the club’s President. Additionally, she worked as a UX Engineering Intern at The Cube, a Facilities Manager for Broad College of Business, and an intern at MSU IT. At The Cube, she served as the lead designer on the Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Art for Equity and Social Justice exhibit, which featured more than 200 pieces of work from all around the world that explored the use of creativity to cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emma Riddering graduated in Spring 2023 with a B.A. in Experience Architecture and is hoping to pursue a career in UX research and grow her photography business after completing her internship with the Department of Romance and Classical Studies.
“I feel so happy to receive this award in spite of all of the hard things our school and community has gone through over the last four years,” Riddering said. “The support from my family, friends, as well as XA staff and faculty, has been incredible. I feel blessed to be surrounded by people who truly care about my whole well-being.”
Riddering has held several internship positions, including working as a UX Design Research Intern for Best Buy, a User Experience Intern for the Department of Romance and Classical Studies, and a Digital Experience Student Team Lead for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Last spring, she began working part-time as a Junior UX Researcher for The Team W, an agency that provides workshops on how to use human behavior research to improve user experience.
Riddering also led two student organizations on campus, serving as President of the service-based organization Reach-Outside for two years and founding Accessibility Professionals at MSU, which aims to foster students’ interest in the field of accessibility by encouraging professional connections. She also has been part of the IOS Design Lab.
Kate Schleusener graduated in Spring 2023 with a B.A. in Experience Architecture and a minor in Theatre and a 4.0 GPA, which earned her the Board of Trustees Award.
“I am truly honored to receive this award, and I could not have done so without the support of many wonderful faculty members and my incredibly talented peers,” Schleuseners said. “Throughout my four years in the XA program, I have been able to take part in many opportunities that have allowed me to grow both as a professional and as a person, and having the XA community to support me has made all the difference.”
Schleusener has worked for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences as a Website Administration Intern and The Cube, where she designed, tested, and built multiple sites through her role as UX Designer before being promoted to Lead UX Engineer and Assistant Project Manager.
“The Cube was a great experience in learning how to build relationships within teams as well as with clients, and I was fortunate enough to be able to work with a lot of great people during my time there,” she said.
Schleusener’s interest in Learning Experience Design led her to become a Co-Studio Lead for the iOS Design Lab, a year-long course where students collaborate in teams to create multidisciplinary projects for clients. Becoming Co-Lead after completing the course allowed Schleusener to provide some mentorship to students as they faced challenges similar to the ones she faced during the course and out in the field.
This spring, Schleusener presented her work as a Research Intern with the Enhanced Digital Learning Initiative (EDLI) at the University Undergraduate Research Forum (UURAF). This work investigated the alignment between assignments and student learning outcomes in a large course.
“I am extremely grateful to everyone who made the many experiences I have had here at MSU possible and for being part of a program that allows us to grow as compassionate, people-centered professionals,” she said. “Moving forward, I am looking for opportunities to use the skills I have developed here as a UX Researcher, and I would love to come back to academia to teach after I have gained more experience in the field.”
Aiden Tomkinson graduated in Spring 2023 with a B.A. in Experience Architecture and minors in Mathematics and Writing. Interested in how algorithms influence society and the equitable impacts of design, Tomkinson plans to go into a UX research/design field with a focus on accessibility.
“I am so honored to receive this award. My college experience hasn’t been traditional in many ways so to have overcome many of the challenges posed by the state of the world and be recognized for my hard work and dedication is so meaningful,” Tomkinson said. “I take pride in the work I have done for various organizations on and off campus and am even more proud of my connections. I wouldn’t have had many of the same experiences if it hadn’t been for my professors’ and classmates’ support.”
Tomkinson is a member of the Honors College, XA Club, and Hous MSU. Additionally, Tomkinson has worked as Lead UX Designer and Engineering Intern at The Cube for two years, a User Experience and Accessibility Intern for Teach Access, having attended their Virtual Study Away Event in March 2021, and a User Experience Researcher for Jackson National Life Insurance Company.
Farjana Chadni graduated in Spring 2023 with a double major in Computer and Information Sciences and Experience Architecture and a minor in Computer Science.
“I am deeply honored to have been awarded the Senior Research Grant, as it represents a recognition of the hard work I have invested in combining design, technology, and education,” Chadni said. “I also appreciate the opportunity I had at MSU to double major in Experience Architecture and Information Science with a Computer Science minor.”
Chadni has worked as a UX designer at The Cube, a TRIO Peer Coach, providing student support services to first-generation college students, and as an Undergraduate Research Assistant, studying the human health benefits of specific fatty acids with the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
Outside of MSU, she has worked as a UX Research Intern for Michigan UXPA, where she researched the application of AI, emphasizing its potential impacts on K-12 education; a Web Development Intern at Open Systems Technologies, where she contributed to the development of a space planning software; and completed her certification with the NASA L’SPACE Mission Concept Academy, an online interactive program open to undergraduate STEM students interested in pursuing a career with NASA or other space organizations.
Additionally, Chadni is the founder of Element in 3D: Interactive periodic table, an interactive and exploratory open-world video game that aims to teach K-12 students about the periodic table of elements, and an AI-integrated Islamic Mobile App, which implements natural language processing to assist novice internet users and individuals with limited digital literacy skills.
“My undergraduate journey was full of highlights, from exploring the field of science to engineering to eventually finding my passion in XA and game-based learning,” she said. “After graduation, I hope to apply my diverse skillset and interdisciplinary perspective in a meaningful way as I hope to begin my career by combining the field of medicine, engineering, and design.”
Over the summer, Chadni will be participating in the Burgess Institute six-week pre-accelerator Momentum program to bring her exploratory educational video game to fruition.