Three graduating seniors — Ann Desrochers, Emily Lin, and Kaitlyn Nguyen — have been selected as winners of the 2022 Experience Architecture (XA) Outstanding Senior Award by Michigan State University’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. The award recognizes XA seniors who show excellence in the program and stand out amongst their peers.
Ann Desrochers will graduate this spring with dual degrees in XA and Psychology and minors in Information Technology and Data Analytics.
“I am deeply honored to accept this award. I am proud to have made an impact during my time at MSU, and I am so grateful for the community I have found here,” Desrochers said. “My hard work has paid off in huge ways, and I know that I have this supportive environment to thank for that. In the future, I hope that XAers continue to show up with the friendly attitudes and positive energies that make our program great. There is no way I could have become ‘outstanding’ without their help — thank you!”
As an incoming first-year student at Michigan State University, Desrochers was selected as one of 17 Alumni Distinguished Scholars, an award that provides full tuition, room and board, and a stipend for up to eight semesters of undergraduate study.
Desrochers has made the most of their time at MSU and accrued a range of professional and academic experiences. Desrochers’ professional experiences include being a Product Experience Intern at Quavo Incorporated, a Fintech provider of dispute management solutions, and an intern at Teach Access, a public charity dedicated to enhancing students’ understanding of digital accessibility. Desrochers also is a Professorial Assistant to Associate Professor Rabindra Ratan in MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Previously, Desrochers worked as a User Experience/User Interface Intern with the College of Arts & Letters.
“I am proud to have made an impact during my time at MSU, and I am so grateful for the community I have found here.”Ann Desrochers
In recognition of their research, “Sparty & ‘Sparthan’: Exploring the Proteus Effect in Virtual Reality and its Correlations with Campus Pride and Misogynistic Attitudes,” Desrochers earned a first place award at the 2019 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF). Desrochers also participated in the Startup Weekend competition with a team that won first place for their project, “MicroWars,” which is an educational biology game that uses Pokémon-style fighting to teach high school biology concepts.
Desrochers has been a member of the XA Club for more than three years and has served as both Vice President and President. In the immediate future, they see themselves in the UX field doing project management and design work, and further down line, plan to integrate their Psychology degree as a licensed counselor or occupational therapist. Desrochers has accepted a position with General Mills in the Digital & Technology Rotational program, which begins after graduation.
Emily Lin, who also is this year’s recipient of the College of Arts & Letters Outstanding Senior Achievement Award, will graduate this spring with a B.A. in XA. She is currently the Lead User Experience (UX) Designer and Engineer Intern for The Cube at MSU, where she has worked on more than 10 projects, including the Detroit Accessibility Project, which aims to help people in the metro Detroit area find accessible spaces for themselves and their families through the creation of a database, website, and mobile app.
“Winning the XA Outstanding Senior Award for me is both humbling and motivational,” Lin said. “I am reminded of my mentors and role models who helped me grow as a student throughout the years, as well as my classmates who truly embody the values for creating usable, accessible, and inclusive experiences. Receiving this award is a motivator to continue pursuing ethical research and design and sharing new knowledge and opportunities with my peers. The XA community has provided me with such abundant support over the years, I hope to continue giving back and supporting my peers even after graduation.”
While at The Cube, Lin has built a website to examine issues of mental health in East Lansing Public Schools and designed COVID-19 masks branded for Michigan State University’s Information Technology program. She also was selected for the 2021 Samsara BBIPOC Design Fund program where she was given a stipend for her commitment to improving the representation of BIPOC communities in design at MSU.
Outside of her work for The Cube, Lin also was a Product Intern for WillowTree, where she worked with well-known companies, like HomeGoods and Sling, to analyze user interviews, complete spreadsheet data analyses, screening, and user research. She also developed a proposal for AfterHours, an app that helps freshman students address their questions and concerns as they transition to college life.
“Receiving this award is a motivator to continue pursuing ethical research and design and sharing new knowledge and opportunities with my peers.”Emily Burch
Within her Experience Architecture major, the principle of accessibility guides each XA project Lin works on. She was involved with the Accessibility Internet Rally, which allowed her to lead a team of four people through a six-week website accessibility redesign for the egalitarian synagogue Shaare Tefila. She also worked with Hee Rin Lee, Assistant Professor of Media and Information, on two separate projects, UX Research for Caregivers and Dementia Dyads Research, which both address healthcare and caregiving concerns.
After graduating, Lin will begin a full-time job as an Associate Product Strategist at WillowTree. Outside of her career, she hopes to mentor people interested in pursuing a career in design.
Kaitlyn Nguyen will graduate this spring with a B.A. in XA and a minor in Japanese. During her time at MSU, she had a range of internship opportunities, including a UX Design Internship with the College of Arts & Letters, a UX Designer & Web Developer position with the MI Diaries project, and a UX Design Researcher position at the MSU Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology. Nguyen also was a Teaching Assistant at MSU.
“Winning this award really signifies my four years in the XA program — both virtual and in-person,” Nguyen said. “Being able to be considered an outstanding XA senior is an honor I cannot be grateful enough for. I would love to thank everyone who contributed to the building of my experiences in the College of Arts & Letters. The Content Studio family for my first step into the UX career field, the SEEN team for showing I can make an impact, and Casey McArdle for being a supportive director. Additionally, all the talented faculty and staff who have supported me throughout my academic career.”
“Being able to be considered an outstanding XA senior is an honor I cannot be grateful enough for.”Kaitlyn Nguyen
Nguyen has played an important role as a user experience designer on the projects she’s worked on during her internships. For the MSU Hub, she created a trauma-informed, user-facing directory that offers essential needs resources for MSU students. She also worked on migrating the College of Arts & Letters website from Concrete5 to WordPress to improve accessible content management and longevity. For the MI Diaries project, she established frameworks to categorize media on the webpage and helped migrate the website to a new platform.
In addition to her user experience skills, Nguyen also is a deft designer and owns an Etsy shop where she sells her personally designed and produced stationary stickers. She also helped redesign and modernize the UXPA Journal’s Logo, which launches this May. “I have met so many amazing people and been able to collaborate and contribute to a variety of projects, small and large,” Nguyen said. “Even with the constraints of COVID, I am glad to have had so many opportunities to grow as a human and user experience professional.”