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FAMU Becomes First HBCU to Pilot Google Ad’s Shape Co-Lab

Justyn
Justyn
Clockwise from left: Nadia Tsegga , Maya Howden , Janece Martial , Jaylen Rawlings , Rolex Saint-Preux, Elijah Rutland, Emmanuel Childs

By Asia J. Miller

The Florida A&M University School of Journalism & Graphic Communication (FAMU SJGC) this spring became the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to pilot a new program out of Google Ads called Shape Co-Lab.

The program is designed to educate and inspire more students to pursue careers in user experience (UX) and technology. UX designers help fulfill users’ needs with a product or service that is useful and functional.

“Partnering with Google in this way elevates our Graphic Communication program by preparing our students with highly-sought skillsets for a global workforce,” said SJGC Dean Mira Lowe. “The Shape Co-Lab allows us to be a leader in producing diverse designers who can solve real problems through design.”

As part of the initiative, Google provided 40+ company volunteers, two practicum course sponsors, and two adjunct professors for the program. Interim Director Division of Graphic Communication Anosh Gill has spent the last year working with Google on the collaboration.

“This is an ideal case where a company has spent hundreds of hours investing time and talent to support the program,” he said. “I don’t think there has ever been a multinational company building up graphic design students and enhancing their educational experience in this way.”

Rick Johanson, UX Strategy and Operations Manager at Google, collaborated with his colleagues to create the program.

“I became very interested in the lack of diversity in tech and the importance of inclusive design,” Johanson said. “How can we claim that design is human-centered when products are built without fair representation of all humans?” 

Rick Johanson, UX Strategy and Operations Manager at Google, started the program which has now scaled to 40+ Google volunteers.

In addition to volunteers and instructors, Google provided 40 students with free Google UX Design Professional courses and certificates. Students put their newly acquired UX/ UI design skills to the test, creating a national prize-winning temperature check app mockup for the American Advertising Federation Addy Awards. 

The team of students was led by spring 2022 graduate Nadia Tsegga, who not only did the coursework and certificate program to help hone her skills, but she received direct feedback, which resulted in her securing a Nike internship set to begin in June.

UX design is a rapidly growing and high-paying field. According to Payscale, an entry level UX designer is expected to earn about $77,000, which is $22,000 more than the average national starting salary.

Johanson’s team hopes to work with SJGC leadership to help introduce a new curriculum shaped by industry standards and informed by user-centered design methods.

“UX Design plays a fundamental role in solving massive world and societal challenges and can lead to an incredibly rewarding and lucrative career path,” he said. “The industry needs more designers, but more importantly, designers from diverse backgrounds.”

The Shape Co-Lab will extend to both Howard University and Jackson State University this spring.

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