Maddie Allard is no stranger to UArts. She came to the Pre-College Program as a high schooler and currently enrolled in the Social Media Marketing Certificate Program. We had the opportunity to catch up with her and hear about her experience with the wide range of programs at UArts.
“UArts has had a huge part in helping me discover who I am and my passions in life.”
What UArts Pre-College classes did you take? How did the program inspire/shape you?
I attended Pre-College in 2009 where I took creative writing, screen directing, and [a] performance art class. All had huge impacts on building my future. In screen directing, my Teaching Assistant Lendl Tellington, ended up becoming a mentor of mine throughout my college years. He even hired me for my first internship. My other classes really helped me find my voice. I’m from a small town where being different isn’t very welcome, but I think attending Pre-College helped me realize that there’s a bigger world out there and what people in my high school thought of me didn’t matter. I thank the performance art class and the teacher for that. We began every class walking around yelling “I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of me” and as a 16 year old that was really life changing.
What brought you back to UArts?
I’m always looking for ways to grow my career, so I started searching for social media marketing classes at multiple schools both in Philly and New York. I graduated in 2015 from Temple University with a BA in Advertising. Thanks to internships, freelance gigs, and my current job, I really found direction in social media. I looked at UArts because I have such fond memories of going there and I thought it would be fun to bring my education full-circle.
More specifically, what brought you to the UArts Social Media Marketing Program?
I’ve learned so much so far through the Social Media Marketing program. My project management skills were a bit of a hot mess, so Sloan Miller’s weekend-long intensive class about project management was so helpful. Despite teaching some complex methods, his ability to bring it into our everyday lives have given me skills not only for work, but for life too.
What skills did you learn/have you learned at UArts that you've taken with you?
I also really enjoyed Melissa Alam’s class. I’m a creative, but when it comes to design I’m still trying to find my voice. She did a great job showing us how to organize ideas and narrow things down to have a cohesive visual brand. It’s really improved how I approach Instagram both personally and professionally. Plus I got a freelance gig out of that class. I’m currently helping Melissa with social media for her Fearless Conference (September 29-30).
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get started in Social Media Marketing?
My advice is to familiarize yourself with the top 3 social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) before diving into the program. Social may seem easy, but everything you do is intentional. So if you’re looking to build your business and/or you have the energy and passion to really pursue it as a career, I definitely recommend it.
Maddie is currently a Social Media Coordinator at TravelSafe Insurance. Although she has a Bachelors in Advertising with a focus in Copywriting from Temple University, she’s found her true calling in Social Media. In her free time Maddie is a certified Open Water Scuba Diver and volunteers as a CASA in Berks County.
Meet faculty member Jeff Stern. Jeff uses research and design-driven processes to collaboratively build innovative products and strategies that encourage users to learn and discover. Currently, he is a Product Manager at Club OS and an instructor in our UX Design Certificate Program. He has previously worked at Girls Who Code, University of Michigan, and Google.
How did you get into UX Design?
I was fortunate and first learned about UX as an undergrad, and interned as part of a user research team at Google. I got my Masters at the University of Michigan School of Information in Ann Arbor- where I conducted on learning platforms, or LMS systems both designing research and doing usability testing. I then went on to lead the Product Management and Design team at Girls Who Code and now Club OS, a technology start-up located in Center City.
What motivates you to want to teach in adult education?
I took a continuing education course at the New School in New York and realized how important this type of learning environment is for adults. I love to teach, and look forward to helping students who want to pivot out of their current career.
What is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
I did a project with Khan Academy and I got to combine the work I was doing with Girls Who Code on Pixar’s campus; we had a tight timeline but we were able to test this educational product with the students who would use it. It was very serendipitous teaching high school students and getting the chance to do usability testing with them - this testing actually made its way into the final product and the students got to experience the research phase.
What’s the first thing people need to know about the research phase?
That it’s important to get feedback at all stages of a project. Students will learn how to speak to the humans using the products, and how to do different types of user research - this might be field observations, or a focus groups - and when each method is appropriate.
What are the biggest pain points for students? Or, where do students stumble and how do you help them?
Communicating results to key stakeholders is an art in itself. No matter how thoughtful your research or how insightful your findings, if you can’t effectively communicate them to decision-makers. We’ll spend time in class evaluating examples of research presentations and working on our own for a final presentation.
What’s the most important thing you want your students to leave with?
Empathy. I hope all students leave with strategies to develop empathy any user. Designers can fall into the fallacy that all users think and act like them, and research is a key way to expand your viewpoint. I’ve built products for middle and high school girls, a user group I’ve never been part of. But by developing deep empathy, I’ve been able to better understand the values and needs of this population.
What often surprises people about research?
Research doesn’t always have to take forever! Clients are often hesitant to invest a lot of a project’s resources into user research. For many, ‘research’ still connotes undertones of academia and ivory towers with questionable day-to-day value. But that’s not true! There are so many rapid, low-cost research methods that can be used to get meaningful product feedback. We’ll discuss how to demonstrate the value of user research in environments that still don’t see it.