Dr. Tamara Peyton lives at the intersection of people and technology. The professor and Harrisburg University HCID program champion was studying how and why people use technology before empathy and human factors were ever mentioned in the same breath as software design.
In Dr. Peyton’s experience, the failure of products and projects was rarely due to programming; it was how humans interacted with the technology—or didn’t—that most impacted adoption and use. With this knowledge and two degrees in sociology, she sought an advanced technical degree in order to channel her passion to mentor in a higher education setting. She chose and completed a doctoral program at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology with a focus in human-centered interaction, a discipline Dr. Peyton is now instrumental in bringing to Harrisburg University-Philadelphia.
Not to be confused with human-computer interaction (HCI), which studies how people interact with computers, human-centered interaction design aims to reduce friction and frustration for people as they move through the world, in the digital realm or in real life. It’s also referred to as user experience design (UX), and it’s one of the fastest-growing STEM career fields today, with most jobs paying six-figure salaries.
The most interesting aspect about HCID is its accessibility to people without a tech degree or technical expertise. When designing processes, apps, and environments to make more fulfilling and useful experiences for people, context matters, which is why liberal arts, humanities, social or human sciences undergraduates are often well-suited to a career in the HCID field.
Dr. Peyton says the most important trait a prospective human-centered interaction designer can have is empathy, something that requires a high emotional intelligence, or EQ.
“Ideally, our HCID master’s candidates will have a strong sense of empathy for others and be out-of-the-box thinkers who can listen to people and extract what they need, even when they can’t articulate it,” says Dr. Peyton.
Harvard Business Review reports strong corporate interest in design thinking as a way to expand businesses in new markets by innovating novel human-centered products and experiences. A quick search of jobs on LinkedIn shows more than 16,000 current openings where design thinking is desired.
Dr. Peyton is also bullish on job prospects for future HU HCID master’s graduates.
“I am thrilled to see more UX positions opening up, in all types and sizes of companies,” she says. “Our students will learn valuable research-based skills and tools so they can go out into the world, solve problems elegantly and make life better for more people every day.”
Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email connect@HarrisburgU.edu.