A number of Luddy Indianapolis graduates are still roaming the halls of the ICTC building, but this time as faculty. Mikaylah Gross Stumbo (Informatics/HCI) and Brendan Bow (Informatics/HCI) are among the adjunct instructors and lecturers who are now teaching in the classrooms, in-person or virtually, where they recently were students.
Understanding student expectations and perspectives
Brendan Bow earned his Bachelor of Science in Informatics in 2019 and his Master of Science in Human Computer Interaction in 2020. In addition to teaching for the Department of Library and Information Science, he is a Policy Analyst for the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy, part of the IU Public Policy Institute (under O’Neill SPEA). Bow works with local nonprofits to determine if their programs are effective, as well on general policy research and policy briefs. He typically does data analysis and quantitative research on topics related to housing, homelessness, and criminal justice.
“I love the city of Indianapolis and love being able to make a difference in the community. I had a great time as a student at Luddy IUPUI and I wanted to help others along with also having a great time here. Additionally, my parents have both taught in colleges and universities and always instilled in me the importance of sharing your knowledge with others,” Bow said.
I think being an alum helps me to better understand the students’ expectations and where they’re coming from. Additionally, it helps me to better recommend resources on campus if a student needs them and to better make connections to other things that are going on in their other classes. For example, I can say things like “if you recall from your Intro to Informatics class…” or “you can use this to create neat visualizations in d3.js, which you can learn about in Dr. Reda’s class…”
Bow believes he brings a few unique perspectives to his students from being a former student. “One thing that I particularly enjoyed as a student (and I try to stress to my current students) is the idea of working across schools and departments to further one’s own education. For example, when I was a Luddy student, I worked very closely with the Herron School of Art and Design to learn how they work through the design process, and used it to inform my own design skills (for databases or elsewhere). Additionally, a great deal of my studies were in the more technical side of computing (server administration), so I try to use that to talk about why we do certain things in big data differently than small data. For example, things like the differences between the way a typical PC stores data versus the way a Hadoop (big data) database stores things,” he said.
Bow also said his work experience helps him build his curriculum by letting him contextualize the very fundamental assumptions about data. “My work is in public policy, a very data-driven field. A very significant portion of the course discusses data ethics and implications, including the idea that as data professionals we (the students and I) are responsible for making sure that our data can be understood clearly and plainly. As database designers, we are responsible for creating the contexts in which data is presented. I try to make the point that humans are fallible, and that data systems created by humans are also fallible. Trust, but verify,” Bow said.
Enhancing conceptual understanding with real-world examples
Mikaylah (Gross) Stumbo spends her days as a Principal Human Factors Engineer at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis. She graduated with her B.S. in Informatics in 2016 and received her M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction in 2018.
Human Factors Engineering is the research and application of information about human behavior, abilities, limitations, and other characteristics to the design of a product. Specifically, within the healthcare sector, human factors engineers ensure that user interfaces are safe and effective for people to use.
Stumbo said, “My time at Lilly started within connected care development supporting the diabetes business unit. We researched digital solutions to monitor blood glucose readings and deliver insulin to patients with Type 1 diabetes, in addition to creating data visualization tools for their healthcare professionals.
“For the past three years, I’ve led the human factors research efforts on several injection device platforms used for the treatment of gastrointestinal, dermatological, and neurodegenerative conditions in children, adolescents, and adults. I contribute human factors expertise to device design, secondary packaging, and labeling materials of clinical trial and commercial products used by patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. I also serve as a risk management technical liaison, helping other human factors engineers analyze, evaluate, control, and monitor risk that could lead to patient harm. Lastly, I complete human factors activities and deliverables that support regulatory submissions to agencies like the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).”
Stumbo said she has always been drawn to teachers, who have served as mentors, advocates, and friends to her throughout her life. “Naturally, I wanted to serve in a similar role to younger students as I progressed through my schooling, teaching well over 1,000 K–12 students while attending Luddy Indy. When I was offered to start engaging with college students as a teaching assistant for Senior Lecturer Louie Zhu, it pushed not only my teaching skills, but also my technical abilities. The part I loved the most about teaching was watching students have the “light bulb” moment after working through a difficult assignment in class.
“Teaching collegiately turned into a bucket list item post-graduation, and I continued to engage in voluntary teaching and guest speaking opportunities, of which many were held at the alma mater. When Davide Bolchini (Professor and now Sr. Executive Dean at Luddy Indianapolis) reached out and asked if I would be interested in joining the faculty to teach, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. What better way to stay engaged with the school than to teach alongside the teachers that taught me?,” Stumbo said.
She is currently teaching INFO-H 563 Psychology of Human Computer Interaction, which covers the psychological and behavioral science of human computer interaction, including cognitive architecture, memory, problem-solving, mental models, perception, action, and language. Emphasis is placed on developing an understanding of the interaction between human and machine systems and how these processes impact the design and testing of interactive technologies.
Teaching in the same school where she was a student offers a unique perspective. “For starters, I’ve taken the same exact courses that are required to complete the master’s program. It provides me a deeper level of empathy, as I know what’s expected of students, the range of knowledge they should have, and where the pain points may be. It also allows me to pull in content from other classes students should be taking to help enhance the learnings of this course,” Stumbo said.
One area Stumbo invests extra time into is understanding each student individually—their passions, their learning styles, and any previous knowledge they have in this course, which helps instill that she sees the individuals in her course as humans first, then students. “There are many instances where life will get in the way, or course content may be too daunting, leading to more stress than necessary. I encourage students to have a collaborative relationship with me to share “wins”, struggles, or concerns. That way, we can pivot coursework or schedules around to meet the individual student’s need while also ensuring they are completing coursework to the level of satisfaction required of the master’s program. Ironically, meeting students where they are and understanding their needs and wants is the foundation of human-centered design, a core tenant of the human-computer interaction program!
“Lastly, I take great pride in our school and the programs we offer, and I want each student to have as great of an educational experience as I did. I engage with current students by sharing career advice, talking about life outside of IUPUI or what it’s like to work in my industry, much in the same way that previous alumni did for me,” she added.
Stumbo also said that a large portion of what is taught in her class directly aligns to the responsibilities she has at her day job, which entails researching and understanding human cognitive capabilities and how that may impact product design. She said that providing relevant, real-world examples of human factors to the course through discussions or assignments enhances students conceptual understanding of foundational topics they can take into the rest of their college experience and ideally, their long-term career.