I decided to pursue an Individualized Major in Information Systems and Analytics because I wanted to combine coursework ranging from Analytics to Quantitative Economics. My Individualized Major has been critical in the development of my technical and quantitative skill sets. I knew that by creating my major I would stand out versus other job candidates because of the unique development and application of my coursework with my job experiences.
This past summer (2021) I was a gTech gCare BOLD Intern at Google. The BOLD Internship Program focuses on building opportunities for leadership and development. The team I worked with this summer functioned within the gTech organization, where I worked with colleagues to troubleshoot technical issues affecting Google Ads accounts. I also worked with a team of interns to develop a Python Colab notebook that analyzed operations and performance data. This experience helped to create a community with my cohort; every day was met with a new challenge that required innovative problem solving to offer timely solutions for Google Ads clients all across the world.
With the conclusion of my internship, I am excited to be returning full-time to Google next year as a Solutions Consultant! It was an amazing summer, and I would not have had the opportunity without my Individualized Major in Information Systems and Analytics.
By Danny Lesh (’21)
IMJR: Information Systems and Analytics
Entering UConn as a French Major, something felt…off…so I immediately began conversing with advisors in the IMJR Program to go over options. I took class upon class to figure out my niche, and it was only in the last year of my education that I found what I needed to study – and it wasn’t in the University catalog. “Social Branding and Visual Media”, the major that I designed, explores digital marketing and branding techniques to enact social change. This could seem a bit flowery and without real-world application, but I would challenge that it’s the exact opposite. With a focus on effective and realistic application and a backbone in research and real-world context, the major’s design opened doors for me that I would otherwise have not even known existed.
In March 2019, I was a granted a remote position as the Head Post-Producer and Cultural Liaison for the largest all-female esports organization in Canada: “Team Sailor Scouts.” The organization is well-known in the Québec Esports community for its aptitude, inclusion, and level of professionalism. It caters to fans of all class and creed, but mainly to the noted minority in the world of competitive video games: women. Although young women make up 66% of the casual gaming industry, fewer than 2% of signed professional players are women. Additionally, women face abuse on a day-to-day basis within their respective games, the majority reporting having encountered racist, sexist, and homophobic comments regularly.
For Team Sailor Scouts, I have created digital assets for our social media pages, advocated for further positive inclusion of women in gaming spaces and the ever-growing industry of esports. We have worked with organizations such as Ubisoft, RDS, Esports Central, Oshko Computers, and the Québec Breast Cancer Foundation to raise awareness and funds for the cause. We have given lectures at schools all over Canada, speaking to both male and female students about erasing stigmas against video games and presenting them as a viable career path regardless of gender. At the moment, I am using intercultural communication skills learned throughout the course of my time in the IMJR program to bring Team Sailor Scouts’ message to the United States, where we hope to expand our presence. Creating digital materials, using methods from my coursework, and framing them in a way that could best reach our audience to create change, we’ve successfully increased our voice and honed it to be loud, clear, and perfectly pitched.
I could not have asked for a better opportunity to have presented itself; finding work that matches not only my two majors, but also one of my favorite hobbies and my personal values, is a very rare opportunity. The one most important piece of advice I can give anyone seeking to enroll in the Individualized Major Program (or even beyond) is to follow your passions, because, at the end of the day, if what you’re doing doesn’t make you happy, then why do it?
By Emily Côté
IMJR: Social Branding and Visual Media
When I started searching for a career path, the one thing I knew was my love for healthcare. I researched a number of different professions, from physician’s assistant to nurse to psychotherapist. But I also have an interest in photography, and, after discovering the field of art therapy, I decided that I would combine my dream of working in healthcare with my passion for the arts. Through the Individualized Major program, I created a major called Health and Wellness through Visual Arts, which merges courses in psychology and Human Development and Family Studies with photography courses in Fine Arts. I intend to use art therapy to help patients cope with their illnesses through creativity and expression.
This summer I interned at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, founded by Paul Newman, which provides a safe and enjoyable environment for children who are living with chronic illness. For eight weeks my job was to capture the special moments these children have at camp and present them in a slideshow at the end of each week. In addition, I created a media program that gives campers a chance to make a project of their own.
My experience at camp brought with it self-realization and a deeper insight into my career goals. The universal feeling of euphoria was contagious and made me want to be the best version of myself. I learned a lot working alongside people who are very different from me, people who sincerely cared how my day was going, who wanted to learn more about me, and who were thankful for their roles at camp. It would have been easy to get caught up in rules and scheduling, forgetting to be in the moment, but I managed to balance responsibility and fun (what we refer to at camp as “raising a little hell”). I learned how to create simple entertainment out of little things and how to communicate in an empathetic way with children and adults who were having a tough time.
This experience has given me a purpose: to do work that transforms peoples’ lives. I look forward to taking these lessons into more environments, applying what I’ve learned, and learning even more in the process.
By Marissa Aldieri IMJR: Health and Wellness through Visual Arts
I’m a senior majoring in Digital User Behavior. What’s that you ask? Digital User Behavior combines two of my passions: understanding human behavior (psychology) and web design (visual communication and digital media design). I’m interested in the field of Usability Research, which tests software products with users to see whether they are usable and how they can be improved to better meet users’ needs and requirements.
This summer I was a User Experience Intern with Tyler Technologies, a company that develops software solutions for the public sector (municipal governments, schools, and utilities). Through networking with another IMJR at UConn (now graduated), a Human Resources representative at Tyler actually found me on LinkedIn based on my university and stated interests.
My major uniquely prepared me for this opportunity. Through the psychology and communication portions of my IMJR, I learned about the drivers of human behavior, how habits are formed, common mental shortcuts, paths to persuasion and how people perceive visual information. Additionally, I learned to design and analyze participant studies as well as conduct research in the Judgment and Decision Making lab on campus. I applied these skills to usability testing in the lab, which involves testing new and existing products with users to see how they can be improved.
I took what I learned from my observations to conduct my own usability tests on products throughout the summer at Tyler, both internally with employees and externally with clients. We tracked the number of user clicks, task completion rates, and overall user impressions. I created my own prototypes using clickable mockups or interactive demos created using the code I’d learned in my web design class. I also worked on designing new screens for two existing programs, giving them an updated look and making them easier to use. Finally, a colleague and I conducted ethnographic research with clients, in the form of unstructured interviews, which looks specifically at user goals instead of product features.
I’m excited to take what I’ve learned this summer and apply it to my next projects this semester – working on my thesis, working in the UITS Web Development lab, and working as the Digital Communications Director for Community Outreach.
This summer I lived in Lima, Peru and interned with the Volunteer Affairs department of MEDLIFE, a non-profit organization that works with low income families in developing countries. Its main goals are to bring medical services to those in poverty and to build relationships with their communities.
In the United States, one often doesn’t see the gap between rich and poor. In Peru, wealth disparities are clearly evident. Thirty percent of the Peruvian population live in Lima, which creates a very concentrated mass of people. To be considered below the poverty line in Peru one has to make less than 348 Sol a month (approximately $116 US dollars), and the poverty rate is about 22% (which is a sharp decline from about 55% in 2005). The poor usually lack basic services such as clean water, electricity and sanitary facilitates.
Although the government provides some health care, called Seguro Integral de Salud (SIS), it is difficult to access. I have seen first hand what a patient’s hospital experience can look like: the wait is usually about 4-8 hours, with no waiting rooms and no guarantee you will see a doctor. To even get an appointment, one has to go to the hospital in person (early if one expects to be seen) for an appointment that will likely be 4-6 weeks later.
As a Volunteer Affairs Intern, I had many different responsibilities. Throughout the week I would be either in the office, in the field, or on a patient follow up. Some of my daily tasks in the office included developing curriculum, coordinating volunteer trips, answering incoming communications and meetings with other departments. One major project I worked on was developing a fundraiser for a school in Kirua, Tanzania. This school is nothing more than a simple room with no bathroom, no kitchen, and insufficient desks for all the students. Many deaths due to diarrhea or parasites are caused by the lack of sanitation facilities. MEDLIFE is working to raise $11,500 to build a bathroom, a kitchen and to donate 29 desks.
On days in the field, I supervised a clinic or worked on a project. If I were supervising a clinic I helped set up the mobile clinics, helped guide volunteers and translated. The projects we worked on were negotiated between MEDLIFE and the community. The community told us what they need most and we helped them build it. The community participation facilitates community pride, which makes our work more sustainable. After our patients checked in to our mobile clinics, if our doctors and nurses determined they needed more continuous care, they were enrolled in our patient follow up program. A MEDLIFE staff member or intern would accompany a MEDLIFE nurse to the patients’ homes to do checkups, deliver medicine, or complete socioeconomic assessments. MEDLIFE covers anywhere from 50-90% of the patients’ costs for however long is necessary.
I also worked on a developmental project for Jorge, one our patients. Jorge suffers from brain atrophy, which means as time goes on, his motor and cognitive abilities diminish. Because of this, he has lost is ability to walk. We provided him with a wheelchair, but even so he was not able to leave his home. We asked his family what we could do, and his wife asked us to build a ramp so he could go outside and play with his children. His son asked us to please help make his dad happy again. As a team we raised $700 in 7 hours! Below is a photo of the before and after when we finished our project.
Over the course of the past three months, I have learned so much about health, public health, myself and the world around me. One of the most important lessons I have learned is the importance of having an interdisciplinary perspective. Approaching the inequalities in health requires some knowledge of human development, human rights, economics, history, sociology and much more. I found that I was most successful in my work when I applied knowledge from an array of different courses. In addition, I solidified my passion for the study of global health. This Peruvian experience has most definitely been a step towards a future in which I work for more equal access to healthcare and for health as a human right.
by Alexa Friedman Individualized major: Human Health Sciences and Development
“I’m in love with cities I’ve never seen and people I’ve never met.” -Melody Truong
My name is Asha Chowdhury, and I am a senior at the University of Connecticut with a major in International Media and Promotion. This summer I traveled to Barcelona, Spain, for an internship that changed my life.
The internship was with YouBarcelona, a marketing and public relations agency that works with the biggest and most well-known nightlife venues in Barcelona: Opium, Bling Bling, Pacha, Hotel W, Shoko, Otto Zutz, etc. I cannot express how excited I was to learn more about this young and lively company. As YouBarcelona’s marketing and social media intern, my tasks included managing a number of their social media accounts, creating content for their website and translating it into other languages, and reviewing venues on Trip Advisor. This was both exciting and scary, because while I had a gut feeling this was where I was supposed to be, I was very afraid of not being happy. Fortunately, I fell in love with my work the moment I stepped into the office.
I had two amazing supervisors, Eric and Jorge, who assigned me a number of Instagram accounts and a fake Facebook, where I was constantly promoting venues and responding to customers. This task was one of the easier ones, but it is vital for the venues to gain recognition and brand loyalty. Customers were very engaged with the social media accounts, and, by the end of my internship, I gained ten thousand followers. This was the most the company had seen in that short an amount of time. Secondly, I created landing pages and blog posts for the English version of YouBarcelona’s website at least three times a week. The goal was to increase our visibility on Google, drive more traffic to our websites, create more brand recognition, and improve our customer relationships. This task allowed me to be innovative in ways I didn’t know I could. Lastly, and this was one of the most tedious tasks, I translated web content for each day in English, Spanish, Catalan, German, French, and Italian. Since tourism is extremely important in Barcelona, it is crucial that we have a multilingual website that can build international relationships. I have little knowledge of these languages, however, which proved very difficult in the beginning. By doing the translations I gained some basic knowledge of each language and more experience for the international aspect of my major.
Upon returning to the United States, I can honestly say I created the perfect major for myself. I was able to integrate my internship with my major and found that work wasn’t work anymore. I found myself enjoying the whole process. And through writing for social media, blogs, and the web, I enhanced my professional skills. In the future I can only grow more.
by Asha Chowdhury Individualized Major: International Media and Promotion
by Anisha Rajopadhye (’17), IMJR: Fashion Merchandising
My major is Fashion Merchandising, but UConn doesn’t offer any courses in fashion, so I looked outside the school to gain knowledge of the industry. On the Education Abroad website I discovered the Fashion Business Summer School at the London College of Fashion (LCF) . This program offers twelve credits in everything from fashion entrepreneurship and marketing to styling. So I applied, was accepted, and experienced an inspiring two months living in London and attending one of the best fashion schools in the world.
The material I studied at LCF was extremely relevant to my career goals. It taught me how to develop a collection, interact with buyers, be a buyer, calculate the costs of manufacturing and producing a garment, distinguish between fabrics, predict upcoming trends, and much more. My professors didn’t sugar coat what the industry was like and didn’t take it easy on us when critiquing our work. They showed me what it would be like to actually work in fashion…and I loved it.
After completing the eight-week summer program, I have an entire portfolio of work I’ve done and I have narrowed down the career path I want to take. I initially thought I might want a career as a stylist, but after producing an eight-look editorial shoot (see below), I’ve realized I am better suited for a career that is more focused on business.
Studying abroad was the best academic decision I have made thus far. It gave me the opportunity to grow as a student and as an individual, and I would encourage all other students to study abroad (especially in London) if the opportunity is presented to them.
This summer I had the opportunity to learn how to use DSLR camera equipment, edit with Adobe Premiere and After Effects, and create short promotional videos, all with the help and support of three experienced video professionals – and I did it all right on the Storrs campus at the University’s Office of Communications. My internship with UConn Communications this summer was both exciting and an important experience professionally. Multimedia Supervisor Bret Eckhardt and Multimedia Specialists Angelina Reyes and Elizabeth Caron all offered me hands on experience and generous amounts of sage advice about varying aspects of media production. With backgrounds in television news, advertising, and freelance work, they gave me an inside look at the different directions my career could take, and what I should look for. This summer, working on my own, I was able to capture a jazz concert at Storrs Center, Peter Pan flying at the Connecticut Repertory Theater, and UConn’s annual Bioblitz event. I also assisted production on an array of other projects throughout the summer. Going forward, I have a much clearer idea of my path, and it confirmed that my decision to pursue an individualized major in film was a good one. Oh, and I also became friends with the Jonathan Huskies!