New Experience Architecture (XA) Major Delivers on Creating Innovative Digital Solutions

Experience Architecture, or XA, is one “hot” and expanding MSU College of Arts & Letters major, and founding faculty members Liza Potts, Rebecca Tegtmeyer and William Hart-Davidson, couldn’t be more pleased with the strong student interest. 

man writing on white board
Tylor Hoekstra, a junior in the XA major, creates a wireframe for a website.

Potts, who is XA program director and associate professor in CAL’s Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures (WRAC), is quick to address where and how XA applies in business, industry and the future of high-tech. 

“Experience Architecture is an academic term that translates into ‘user experience’ in the business world,” Potts says. “Experience architects are strategists who lead teams in creating products and services in digital and physical spaces. They’re skilled technologists with empathy for people and an understanding of human experience.”

Hart-Davidson, an associate professor in WRAC, adds, “The Experience Architecture major develops skills with a strong emphasis on practice-focused humanities curriculum. Viewed in its entirety, Experience Architecture can be defined as infrastructure for living in the twenty-first century.”

It allows me to feed my interest in the technical while incorporating my desire to help people on a global scale.


Potts and Tegtmeyer, an assistant professor of graphic design in CAL’s Department of Art, Art History, and Design (AAHD), note that XA coursework focuses on the principles of user-centered design, best practices in information architecture, and the knowledge gained in interactive experiences. Students engage in researching, managing, and prototyping, as well as developing content strategy, and learning about design and interactive media, computer science and programming.

“The program’s goals,” says Potts, “are to provide graduates with advanced, cross-functional communication skills, and the ability to think creatively, analytically, and productively.”

Hart-Davidson adds, “Along the way, students will gain proficiency at working independently and collaboratively with stakeholders. In addition to internships, their hands-on experience opportunities will include research-based, team-focused projects, and study abroad trips designed to expand their knowledge and network.”

Helping to facilitate this, MSU’s Experience Architecture program is establishing connections with global high-tech forces such as Google, IBM, Dominos, Quicken Loans and other leading companies.

Noted IBM User Experience Consultant Keith Instone is the program’s Experience Architect in Residence, serving as student and faculty advisor, liaison with the community at large, and spokesperson for the degree.

“Keith Instone has already visited our classes on multiple occasions to share his expertise,” says Experience Architecture major Tommy Truong. “It’s amazing to have someone with his experience as a resource.”

a student working on a computer
Tommy Truong is a sophomore in the new XA Program

Truong says he happened to take a Writing, Rhetoric, and American Culture course, and became intrigued by the department’s new Experience Architecture major.

“I spoke with Bill Hart-Davidson about the how and why behind the XA major being created, and fell in love with it,” Truong says. “It allows me to feed my interest in the technical while incorporating my desire to help people on a global scale. With it, I can combine user behavior research and human-technology interaction.”

Similarly, XA major Tylor Hoekstra, says, “The XA major attracted me because I get all the technical proficiencies I want, as well as professional communication skills such as digital rhetoric and project management. These classes go a long ways toward preparing me for my professional career, and the connections I’m making will definitely benefit me in the future. After graduating, I hope to get involved in interactive design, most likely with a software company.”

Truong, Hoekstra, and XA majors Emily Dallaire and Meghan Richardson, say that the numerous job opportunities and excellent average starting salaries for Experience Architecture graduates helped attract them to the new major. 

The career possibilities for our XA students are extensive.


In fact, Dallaire and Richardson have already secured high-profile high-tech internships. Dallaire will intern as a user experience researcher for Portland, Oregon-based Elemental Technologies, the leading supplier of software-defined video solutions for multiscreen content delivery. Richardson will intern in Boston as a user experience designer for Red Hat, the leader in open source solutions including Linux.

Dallaire is particularly interested in working in content strategy and information architecture upon graduation, while Richardson most enjoys interactive design and research.

Concludes Potts, “The career possibilities for our XA students are extensive. MSU’s Experience Architecture majors will graduate with the knowledge and proficiency to combine the human experience and the depth of global cultural awareness to produce creative and innovative digital solutions.”