We know that people learn better and achieve more working together, rather than alone. Our value is that we succeed or fail together. We don’t want our students to compete with one another; we want them to work together.

Students Kathy Li and Pavithra Ramamurthy present their “Buddy” speech therapy robot

Our program is structured to support this value. Students are only admitted once a year, and they take many courses together throughout the program. Beyond covering HCI/d research and methods, we also emphasize soft skills. We teach students how to hold productive group meetings, how to deal with conflicts, and how to ensure equal participation. We have a culture of design presentation; we give experience—and the confidence that comes with it—of presenting design processes and outcomes to diverse stakeholders. We have a culture of design critique: students trust each other enough to be able to take and receive criticism.

The cohort culture extends beyond the classes. Lifelong friendships—and more than a few marriages—have emerged from our program. Our alumni remain in close contact with the program and each other. Alumni help current students find internships and jobs, provide portfolio critiques, and vigorously debate about new tools and methods. They provide ongoing input into curriculum decisions.

Students attend a talk by an industry expert. Photo by Andy Hunsucker

We build the cohort from diverse disciplines; in diversity, we are stronger. We admit students with backgrounds in psychology, computer science, engineering, product design, language and literature, business, and fine art. We admit students from all over the world and from diverse walks of life. Solving tomorrow’s problems is not only a technical problem. It also entails an ability to interpret sociocultural trends. It has to contribute towards organizations and business models. And it demands, perhaps above all, an empathy towards others, including the ability to see and to serve others’ needs and desires—often before they can see these things themselves.