On this page, you'll find information related to the the Interactive Design degree I founded and coordinate at Kennesaw State University (KSU).

Program Creation

In 2014, I was hired by KSU during its consolidation with Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU). Although an Assistant Professor at the time, I was given the job of Coordinator with a mandate to discontinue one degree (New Media Arts) and create a new degree that didn't conflict with existing degrees at the newly consolidated university.

I needed to create a degree that not only fulfilled the needs of students but also made sense within the organizational structures at KSU. Using research from my dissertation and noting a dearth of user experience (UX) design-related programs in the Southeastern United States at that time, I zeroed in on interaction design for the new degree.

An image of a poster for AIGA's design education conference in Indianapolis, IN.

AIGA DEC Conference, 2018

The Interactive Design (IAD) degree I founded (proposed in 2015 and officially certified by the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents in 2016), focuses on the design of digital products and services -- anything that includes a screen-based component. The degree doesn't teach design as something that's only applied to the look of a product or service. Rather, we understand design as happening at every stage of the longer process, from opening planning meetings to user research to creating screen-based deliverables.

The curriculum of the degree was set up not so much to prepare students for job titles that change all the time, but to prepare them with skills that will be transferrable to different types of jobs in our ever-shifting economic landscape. To make sure we would teach appropriate skills, from 2014 to 2016, I interviewed 50+ gracious design professionals (from institutions such as: 18F, Fitbit, Google, Home Depot, Medium, Razorfish, State Farm, Twitter), to better understand the types of skills students need to be competitive on the job market.

We currently train students along a spectrum that includes user research, systems thinking, and prototyping skills. Additionally, we train all students with the core communicative skills necessary to work on cross-functional teams in the workplace. Our first graduating class was in May of 2018 and, as of August 2022, the IAD degree has roughly 300 students. Further, since 2018, the student population has grown 171% and we've helped students attain jobs at companies like Apple, Deloitte, Google, Home Depot, and IBM to name a few.

Program Coordination

My department defines coordination as overseeing program direction and curriculum, addressing retention and growth, student mentorship, point of contact for new students, conducting exit surveys, leading searches for new hires, and annual teaching evaluations.

I believe that good degree coordination not only focuses on student success in the classroom, but tries to imagine how the skills students learn in the class will shape their trajectories long afterward. To me, this means that a good coordinator must always stay current with changes in the field and understand the exigencies students face on the job market.

A image of a design workshop. A woman is standing in front and explaining design exercises to students.

On-campus workshop by Mailchimp design researchers, 2018

With this in mind, I created a comprehensive knowledge base for the degree, which helps inform potential students about the degree in addition to pointing current students to information regarding classes, portfolio creation, and how and where to start networking. I also run a Discord server for the degree, which helps me to expediently answer questions and announce potential internship and job opportunities. This server generally diminishes some of the lag time that happens with current academic communication infrastructures.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line at mlahey (at) kennesaw (dot) edu!