When Mandy Wortz was first introduced to computers and technology in the classroom, she didn’t realize that she would one day be studying user experience research and design, database manipulation, natural language processing and the many other topics covered in her Human-Computer Interaction specialization.
“I grew up in a small town and I took a typing class. Then we had basic Microsoft Office classes and others like that,” Mandy laughs. “I always enjoyed them, but it wasn’t as if I knew they were going to lead to a next step for me.”
Once enrolled at Ball State University to pursue a degree in secondary education, however, Mandy realized she had more technological interests and ambitions. The program required students to create online portfolios and develop other technical skills, which led her to add a minor in educational technology.
“That was kind of the beginning for me. I had a place where I could start digging in and getting more skills” she says. “I liked my classes and enjoyed my secondary education program, but I enjoyed the technology part a little more.”
After graduation, Mandy was hired as a database coordinator at the U-M School of Social Work. She managed a broad database that placed more than 700 social work students in internships every semester. Looking for graduate programs to further develop her technical skills, Mandy was advised to check out the School of Information.
She attended UMSI’s Visiting Days and was impressed by the school’s ability to combine social science and technology. She was also attracted by opportunities to participate in projects in developing countries, something she experienced when she spent a summer teaching technology to educators in Namibia.
Since enrolling at UMSI, Mandy has maintained her passion for educational technology, taking courses such as Barry Fishman’s “Transformative Learning and Teaching with Technology” and helping to form the student group Learning and Education Technology at the School of Information (LETSI).
LETSI was developed from a project started by fellow MSI student Adam Levick, who like Mandy and co-founder Stephanie Wooten, has a strong interest in educational technology. LETSI promotes collaboration in the education technology field among designers, practitioners, and faculty members and seeks to build a community to connect them with students. Moving forward, the group is looking to team with sponsors and a similar group from the Ross Business School with the goal of hosting a conference to get students more involved in educational technology and entrepreneurial activities.
“It’s really about getting students connected to larger conversations and projects in the community, providing opportunities for students to connect with businesses, and getting them to spread ideas, collaborate, and create their own conversations,” Mandy says.
This summer, she is working as a business process management intern at TD Ameritrade, doing contextual inquiry and user-experience research to improve the company’s business processes. She’s also eager to develop her graphic design skills, expand her programming abilities, and continue to immerse herself in UMSI’s efforts to combine social science and technology studies.
“This sounds very clichéd, but I am interested in using technology to help people,” Mandy says. “Even if that’s just working at a company and building positive interactions every day, I’d like to try to find ways to make other people’s lives better.”