Student Staff Spotlight: Ally Sierra

Student Staff Spotlight: Ally Sierra, Design Consultant, M.S.I. ’22 in User Experience Design and Research and B.A. in Communication and Media

Story by Sydney Moore

How did you become involved with C-SED/what drew you to C-SED?

I had heard of C-SED during my undergrad at UofM, but I didn’t get involved until I was looking for an internship during my graduate program in Information Science. As soon as I read up on C-SED, I became interested in their mission. I started their twelve-week internship with the Summer Studio in May 2021. At the end of the internship they asked if I wanted to stay involved, so I started working when the 2021-2022 school year began.


Describe your role at C-SED.

I do a lot of design consultant work. A lot of this work revolves around user-experience design, specifically related to the continuation of our Summer Studio project. I also work on the C-SED social media channels, the newsletter, and preparing for the future of C-SED. I’m always brainstorming what we could be doing on the student-facing side. As a part of that, I coordinate with the C-SED Storytellers so I know what C-SED is focusing on through the stories that get pushed through. I’ve even been writing a bit myself: I just finished a reflection piece on the Summer Studio! Beyond that, this job is kind of a continuation of my C-SED internship, as I’m helping the C-SED staff parse through the research I did during my internship. The research we conducted focused on College of Engineering faculty and how C-SED can better assist faculty with things like the grant proposal process.


What drew you to this role?

In undergrad I did a lot of work with College Democrats as their social media coordinator. I appreciated how the social justice issues I’m passionate about and humanity-centered design often overlapped in this space. I was reminded of this appreciation when I started my Masters in Information Science. After the first year, I came to have a broader definition of what design could be. That’s why I love how C-SED focuses on diverse perspectives and addressing social justice issues.


Any unexpected parts that surprised you?

I come from a low-income household, so I have been working in the service industry since middle school. I was very familiar with what that work environment looked like, particularly how strong the culture tends to be. The C-SED internship was my first experience in a more professional setting. I was worried that there wouldn’t be the same sense of community, especially because it was remote work. As soon as I started, I realized that was far from the truth. Now, I look forward to the C-SED team meetings because everyone is so open. They make you feel like an integral part of the team. 


What have you learned in your role at C-SED?

During Summer Studio, I realized that you can approach design from a humanity-centered lens to solve problems close to your heart. It changed my opinion of what design can mean and look like. For instance, one of the C-SED facilitators I know went on to get a job at an equity non-profit. I didn’t even know those kinds of roles existed.


What do you like most about working at C-SED?

The social justice focus and the people! In most roles, I’ve been anxious to talk to higher management, but I don’t feel that way here. I know that Ann is there to help and everyone is rooting for me. 


What is one project you really enjoyed working on?

I enjoyed working with Erin on the C-SED Newsletter. I love formatting and being able to see the final product.


How has your career path developed over time?

I have always wanted to be a writer! The amount of notebooks I went through as a kid was insane. I’d tear out pages and staple them together. Until junior year of college, I was going to be an English major, but I switched to Communication and Media because it provided a wider range of job options. I decided to get a Masters in Information Science because my undergraduate advisor encouraged me to pursue it. I knew nothing about UX design before the program, so I started just hoping it was what I really wanted to do. Since then I’ve come to love this approach to design.


Any favorite design tools everyone should try?

Lots of people prefer Adobe XD for prototyping, but I actually prefer It’s very user friendly. I also like making personas and has great templates for this.


What is a social justice topic you are passionate about?

Right now I’m focused on climate justice, as it needed to be addressed years ago. I’m also passionate about reproductive justice and reforming the criminal justice system. 

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