In addition to being the first six graduates of the College of Applied Health Sciences’ Master of Science in Health Technology (MS-HT) program, the inaugural class had something else to celebrate.
The six students, Marlene Robles Granda, Gabrielle Choo-Kang, Asif Huq, Tia King, Amrutha Kumaran and Neva Manalil, celebrated their graduation with a final presentation and awards ceremony on August 3, 2021. At at the end of the year, they were all employed.
Robles Granda, for example, landed as a data scientist at OSF Healthcare. She credited the MS-HT program for helping “decide on my career path.”
“Before MS-HT, I worked as a software engineer to positively impact people’s lives by automating manual processes to help people in their daily activities. After graduating, I was able to achieve my goal of combining my previous skills and knowledge with knowledge of health technologies. Now I know what factors influence people to use technology and how to design health technologies according to people’s needs. My skills developed at the MSHT allowed me to integrate the health system.
The College of Applied Health Sciences, in collaboration with the Grainger College of Engineering, has developed the interdisciplinary MS-HT aimed at training professionals to improve the quality of life, health and independence of people of all ages and abilities to maintain health and well-being; managing chronic diseases; and to recover from injury or medical treatment.
Students are trained in software applications, hardware engineering, human factors and user-centered design, among others through a program led by renowned researcher Dr Wendy Rogers and associate director Dr Nicole Holtzclaw-Stone.
Another early graduate, Tia King, said she was drawn to the MS-HT program because it “seemed really customizable. I knew I loved healthcare, but I also loved the idea of designing things. It looked like I would be able to do both of these things with this program. Also speaking with (Holtzclaw-Stone) before was extremely helpful. She immediately arranged an appointment and answered all my questions (and continued to do so throughout the program).
King said the MS-HT program led to a diversion in his plan.
“I thought I wanted to be a clinical psychologist before this program,” she said. “When I was accepted into the program, I wanted to get into athletes and wearables, as I had been in sports all my life. But thanks to (Dr. Tim Hale’s) classes (human factors and understanding of users), I knew the path I wanted to take was (UI and UX).
King said Hale’s classes “allowed me to find my career path.”
King, who landed at Curo Financial Technologies Corp. in Chicago as a product coordinator, said her new employer specifically mentioned MS-HT as the reason she was hired.
“The program was mentioned because I would bring a new perspective to the team, and how they view users given that I was working in FinTech with a background in healthcare,” King said. “My employer seemed interested in the length of the program and the skills I was able to acquire.”
Robles Granda accepted.
“They didn’t tell me about it directly, but every time they introduced me to a new peer, they said, ‘Marlene is a graduate of the new MS-HT program offered by UIUC. I firmly believe that MS-HT is the reason I was hired for this position. »
Dr. Jonathan Handler, principal investigator of the OSF Healthcare Innovation team and supervisor of Robles Granda, said Robles Granda was absolutely right.
“The MS-HT program was a key factor in hiring Marlene,” he said. “We wouldn’t have known of her availability and strong fit for our needs if we hadn’t had a relationship with the program and her teachers who reached out and recommended her.”
Holtzclaw-Stone said the program is already showing growth, growing from a class of six in the first year to eight this year, with further growth planned for future cohorts.
“We are thrilled that our first cohort of graduates have found employment, and that companies and organizations are recognizing the importance of an MS-HT degree, as well as the skills acquired by our students,” she said.
Handler said he wouldn’t hesitate to hire more MS-HT graduates.
“Marlene had a great start with us and we’re thrilled to have her!” he said. “We hope that MS-HT graduates will consider joining us as new opportunities arise.”
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