Experiential Learning

Emily Roller: User Experience Intern

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.

Tyler Techologies building
Tyler Technologies building

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.

The internship this summer taught me three key lessons. The first is the importance of asking for help. As an intern, I wanted to look competent and prove to my colleagues I could do the tasks on my own. Further, I didn’t want to annoy my new colleagues with questions. I was working on a specific project in Javascript, attempting to recreate an app a fellow developer had created. I spent about three days on this before finally caving and asking him for help. In just an hour, he explained to me his app, his thinking, and how to adapt it for my purposes. I learned more from him in that hour than I could have in my own struggling. As I began to ask colleagues for help, I came to understand the importance of other ideas and perspectives. Often others can pick up on things you may never notice. Second, I learned that you don’t know what you don’t know. I found that in early kickoff meetings, I felt confident that I had a handle on the design issue at hand and it wasn’t until conversations with clients, developers, and colleagues that I began to uncover the layers inherent to the problem. I’ve learned that when I feel confident, I should keep digging in to the problem. Finally, I’ve learned that learning doesn’t stop at school. At a technology company like Tyler, we are always learning new updates, methods, and technologies. I’ve seen that the difference between successful and unsuccessful programmers seems to be adaptability and excitement to learn; without these key traits it can be easy to be frustrated by the changes inherent in this type of work.

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.

by Emily Roller
IMJR: Digital User Behavior

A Peruvian Experience

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.

Alexa Friedman (bottom center) at work
Alexa Friedman (bottom center) at work

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.

Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru

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

Jorge's house before
Jorge’s house before
Jorge's house after
Jorge’s house after

A Barcelona Experience

“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.

Asha in Barcelona
Asha in Barcelona

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.

YouBarcelona meeting room
YouBarcelona meeting room

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

Monika Coello’s Italian Experience

This past summer I spent six weeks in Florence, Italy through the UConn Business Summer program. I left Storrs with a little bit of excitement, a little bit of fear, and all the questions in the world about what these next six weeks would hold. At the time, I had just decided to become a double major and add Consumer Behavior to my nearly completed Psychology major. I decided that this experience would be the best way to truly know if I belonged in the business world. The program included two courses led by UConn faculty: “Business in Italy: International and Entrepreneurial Perspective” and “History of Culture and Food in Italy.”

While getting acquainted with the breathtaking city of Florence, my business course took me on interactive trips to six different businesses in the neighboring cities. From authentic paper marbling to a winery run from a historic Medici castle, my classmates and I experienced an eclectic collection of business settings. My first trip was to a pizza company that was unlike any other business we would visit. Contrary to the family-centered way of business that is common in Italy, this company had it eyes set on international expansion while maintaining authentic values. After a tour of the facility, the business executives presented their plans for expansion and engaged in an open discussion about the challenges and opportunities for their company and asked for our recommendations. It was after this trip that I knew I was in the right place.

Tuscan Vineyard
Tuscan Vineyard

As the weeks flew by, we were tasked with evaluating each business, giving our thoughts on what they did well and what we felt could be improved, and constantly comparing and contrasting the American way of business to that of Italians. Despite all of the papers and assignments, we were still able to travel and explore on our days off. As our classes only ran from Monday to Thursday, I had the privilege of seeing the beautiful island of Capri, the ruins of Pompeii, and the magnificent shore of the Adriatic Sea. Those six weeks abroad gave me one of the most memorable, beneficial, and absolutely fantastic experiences of my life. I may have arrived in Florence with apprehension, but I left with every assurance for which I could have asked.

Florentine Lunch
Florentine Lunch

Ariana Scurti, Social Entrepreneur

During the summer of 2015, I traveled to Guatemala with the Social Entrepreneur Corps through the 8-week UConn study abroad program. It was a fantastic experience and program, and I learned more during that time than in any other period of my life. Perfectly complementing my individualized major in International Relations (with a focus in Human Rights and Development) and my traditional major in Spanish, this program reaffirmed my desire to work in the human rights and economic development sector. We worked with students from all over the country and different universities such as UConn, Duke, Babson, Boston University, University of North Carolina, and Cornell. Our community partner, Soluciones Comunitarias, is run by absolutely amazing people, and we worked very closely with them during this whole process. They use the MicroConsignment Model (MCM), a sustainable and impactful social business plan that mirrors microfinance initiatives in many ways.

Our big group was divided into three different teams: Esperanza, Oportunidad, and Impacto. My team, Esperanza, focused on eye care and eye health—this entailed running and organizing free eye exams for the local communities and finding the correct glasses or other products for the clients. This was the first year that they implemented the SVOne (as seen in the picture below), a device that took pictures of the client’s eyes and read what they needed for a distance prescription. As a team, we created a final report of over 100-pages with deliverables and instructions on how to carry out an effective campaign with the SVOne. This included everything from how to create strong relationships with local eye doctors to a way to properly manage the product sales.


We worked five to six days a week, but on our days off we were able to travel, hike, and explore the local community. On a weekend with two days off, we climbed Volcán Tajumulco, the highest point in Central America. We made it to the peak to watch the sun rise over the volcanoes in the distance (see picture below). It was one of the hardest, but most incredible physical challenges I’ve ever experienced. At UConn, I continue to work with Social Entrepreneur Corps as a Campus Advisor because I truly believe in the work that they are doing and I hope to help them continue and improve upon their vision in any way possible.


Anisha Rajopadhye’s Summer of Fashion

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.

  • Fashion photo shoot

Ryan Glista’s Multimedia Internship

by Ryan Glista (’16), IMJR: Film

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!

Filming with Jonathan the husky! @uconn @jonathanhusky14 @angiecolorbars

A photo posted by Ryan Glista (@ryanglista) on