UX Student Starts Information Sciences Club
As the undergraduate program at the School of Information Sciences (SIS) continues to grow since its inception in fall 2019, the needs of students in the program to network and gain hands-on skills also grew. That’s why SIS senior Hunter Sexton stepped up to the plate when he was asked to establish an Information Sciences Club in spring 2023.
Sexton, who serves as president of the club, pointed out that many students want additional work for their portfolios even outside of what they do in class, and the club would allow them opportunities to work together in groups on such projects. It also gives them a chance to connect more with each other face-to-face, as SIS is unique in offering many of its courses to students online.
“The Information Sciences Club is going to be a great resource and opportunity for students who want to gain additional hands-on experience in user experience design, data information management and analytics, and other cutting-edge areas. We are excited to see how this new club will support our students as they build their portfolios of work and continue to network with each other and industry professionals,” said SIS Professor and Director Rorissa Abebe.
Sexton is pursuing an information sciences major with a concentration in user experience design (UXD), and most of the current students in the club are interested in UXD. UXD is how information is organized and presented on digital platforms, ranging from websites to software and mobile apps. It encompasses jobs where people conduct research with users about their journey to find information or complete tasks, as well as positions where UX designers create wireframes and prototypes to inform the design of platforms to best serve the needs of the platform’s intended audience.
He said the long-term goal of the club is to become a resource for other clubs and various student groups and organizations on campus. The students in the club would act as consultants for user experience work, Sexton said, noting the idea of the club started to form when he had a friend who was looking for UX students to fill roles in a grant-funded project.
But the club is open to all aspects of information sciences, so students who are pursuing the general SIS major concentration or the data information management and analytics concentration can join and pursue projects in their interests. In fact, any University of Tennessee, Knoxville, student—undergraduate and graduate—are welcome to join the club.
“I would love it if people from graphic design wanted to join and work with us on the user interface side of things, and if people from computer science wanted to join. Then we can have whole teams of people to work on projects,” Sexton said.
Sexton hopes to one day have a career leading such a team to do optimization and improve products and business infrastructure, and he has the educational basis to do so. He first became interested in UXD while attending L&N STEM Academy, one of Knox County School’s magnet academy high schools. There, he was on a web design track and one of his teachers introduced the field of user experience work to him.
“I think it was a lot to do with my teacher and how she was able to guide and help me in my courses. It made me want to help other people find the information they needed, and I knew I could do that through UX,” he said. “I found a more fitted major at UT that was zoned into UX, so I transferred out of my double major [at Carson Newman] into a single major that better encompassed what I wanted to do.”
Hunter transferred to UT in fall 2022 and set about establishing the club the following spring. He also recently started a UX internship with the College of Communication and Information’s Office of Communication and Marketing, where he will conduct research and testing on the college’s websites. He’s always looking for opportunities where he can flex his skills and learn new ones so he’ll be well-prepared to enter the workforce next year.
“Hunter is a natural leader and took the reins of founding the Information Sciences Club when he was asked to do so. He is ambitious, energetic, and will definitely be making a mark on the field when he graduates from our program,” Rorissa said.