Besides being the first six graduates of the Master of Science in Health Technology (MS-HT) program in the College of Applied Health Sciences, the inaugural class had another thing to celebrate.
The six students, Marlene Robles Granda, Gabrielle Choo-Kang, Asif Huq, Tia King, Amrutha Kumaran and Neva Manalil, celebrated the completion of their degrees with a capstone presentation and award ceremony on Aug. 3, 2021. By 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 my career path.”
“Before the MS-HT, I worked as a software engineer to positively impact people's lives either by automating manual processes to help people in their daily activities. After I graduated, I could achieve my goal to blend my previous skills and knowledge with the knowledge of health technology. Now, I know what factors influence people to use technology and how to design health tech according to the needs of people. My skills developed in the MSHT allowed me to get into the healthcare system.”
The College of Applied Health Sciences, in collaboration with Grainger College of Engineering, developed the interdisciplinary MS-HT aimed at training professionals in improving the quality of life, health, and independence for people of all ages and abilities to maintain health and wellness; to manage chronic conditions; and to recover from injury or medical treatment.
The students are trained in software application, hardware engineering, human factors, and user-centered design, among other things in a program led by renowned researcher Dr. Wendy Rogers and associate director Dr. Nicole Holtzclaw-Stone.
Another of the first graduates, Tia King, said she was drawn to the MS-HT program because it “seemed really customizable. I knew I loved healthcare but also loved the idea of designing things. It seemed like I would be able to do both of those things with this program. Also talking with (Holtzclaw-Stone) prior was extremely helpful. She set up a meeting right away and answered all my questions (and continued to do so throughout the program).”
King said the MS-HT program led to a diversion in her plan.
“I thought that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist prior to this program,” she said. “When I was accepted into the program, I wanted to look at athletes and wearable devices, given I had played sports my entire life. But through (Dr. Tim Hale's) courses (Human Factors and Understanding Users), I knew the route that I wanted to take was (user interface and user experience).”
King said Hale’s courses “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 a reason she was hired.
“The program was mentioned because I would bring a fresh perspective to the team, and how they view users given I was doing the FinTech field with a healthcare background,” King said. “My employer seemed interested in the length of the program and the skills I was able to learn.”
Robles Granda agreed.
“They haven’t told me directly about that, but every time they introduced me to a new peer, they say, ‘Marlene graduated from the new MS-HT program that UIUC offers.’ I strongly believe that MS-HT is the reason I was hired for this job.”
Dr. Jonathan Handler, a senior fellow on the OSF Healthcare Innovation team who is Robles Granda’s supervisor, said Robles Granda was absolutely correct.
“The MS-HT program was a key factor in hiring Marlene,” he said. “We would not have known of her availability and strong fit for our needs had we not had a relationship with the program and her professors who reached out and recommended her.”
Holtzclaw-Stone said the program is already showing growth, going from a class of six the first year to eight this year, with further growth planned for upcoming cohorts.
“We are so thrilled that our first cohort of graduates found jobs and that companies and organizations are recognizing the importance of an MS-HT degree, as well as the skills our students have acquired,” she said.
Handler said he would not hesitate to hire more MS-HT grads.
“Marlene has had an excellent start with us and we are thrilled to have her!,” he said. “We hope MS-HT graduates will consider joining us as new opportunities arise.”
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