Hi! My name is Ziva, and I'm a student at the University of Washington, studying Human Centered Design & Engineering.
During my time in school, I joined several communities focusing on international student mentorship and represented international student voices in various school committees, highlighting issues international students face on campus on a daily basis, especially as a queer woman of color.
I also devoted my time to Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research. Other than assisting existing projects on engineering pedagogy in the department, my peers and I co-founded a research project focusing on resisting colonized systems in HCI.
Why UX, why design justice, and what I hope to work on in the future
“I don’t want to apply to CS major anymore, I want to learn HCDE.” It was an afternoon on the Ave, and I said it to my mentor Razan after meeting up and talking about our life at UW. I met Razan the from International Student Mentorship Program (ISMP), a student organization supporting international students at UW. When I first got to know her, I was stubborn, hurt, and lost. My desire to get into CS was purely an act of resistance against my father’s sexist speech about how women are terrible at technology and would never succeed, and my feelings towards my family, my identity, and my life are tangled together with the experience of racism and sexism, my family’s denial of my sexuality, and all the unresolved trauma never would get a chance to resolve since I was 9181 km from home.
“Tell me more about it! Why do you want to change to HCDE, what do you love about it, and know that I will always support you.” Razan said. Having Razan as a mentor in my freshman year changed my life. She guided me with love, care, and through asking me so many questions. Her questions guided me to reflect on myself: my passion, my next step, and how I should reclaim my own power and narrative.
After freshman year, I continued as a mentor in ISMP for international students and therefore opened the door of international students and immigrant advocacy. My journey as a mentee and a mentor led me to the responsibility and honor of being a president of ISMP, leading a program of 70+ international student mentees and mentors at UW. Aside from learning how to lead an organization with complex components and a variety of activities, I also was shaping my understanding of leadership to be empowering organization members and ensure sustainable growth of the organization to make sure its impact can last year to come.
My connection with international student advocacy is further strengthened from my experience of working with ASUW and GPSS student leaders as a PACS representative and a co-sponsor of the international student engagement bill, which prompted me to reflect more on the relationship between student advocacy and school entity support, and how we can enact change within and outside of the system. During the summer, I had the opportunity of working with SOIS.US, which is a larger scale project created to support international students maintaining their status and staying in the US during F1 visa restriction this summer. Through conducting legal resource research, and providing web design development support, I was able to create not only changes within Seattle but also in the US through working with the grassroots organization from California.
My community and advocacy experience also influenced my academic research path in HCDE. Started as a researcher in Jennifer Turn’s Supporting Engineering Student Reflection research group in my freshman and sophomore year, I learned how to read, analyze, and synthesize ideas in an academic research context. I was constantly motivated to find new literature to spark new research directions and to find novel methods to inform data analysis process with visualization.
The experience of working on research on engineering and education sparked my interest in using the lens of study and observation to create changes and support for students in engineering, and therefore I started my own research on Resisting Colonized Systems in Human-computer Interaction (HCI) Pedagogy in my senior year, with the goal of supporting students in HCI with similar experiences of racism and xenophobia in school through a design, learning, and critiquing toolkit on post-colonial design. Through my years in HCDE, I really felt the limited exposure of justice, equity, and critical examination of design on the conversation of racism and colonialism in HCI education, and my community experiences with international student advocacy helped me to connect the dots between my community work and academic work. My experience as the president of ISMP helped me to establish a solid foundation of the research and allowed me to make steady progress with my research partners: manage complex resources and project content, facilitate crucial but difficult conversations, bring in new resources, and practicing leadership with the aim of empowering ourselves and our communities. Meanwhile, my craft as a researcher improves along with my understanding of what politics and advocacy in HCI would look like.
After graduation, I will still face countless unknowns and challenges. Instead of stepping back, I decided to embrace them, and I’m excited to see what’s the next stop these challenges can bring me to. I will hopefully begin grad school which I can further shape my research technique, as well as my understanding of my relationship with communities as a researcher and designer in the world of diaspora and conflict, yet so much hope and resistance. I hope to continue my work as a researcher to critically examine and amplify justice-centered framework, support, and advocate for marginalized and underserved communities in tech both in China and at a global scale, and keep connecting the dots between principles of community work and their application in Human-computer Interaction. Furthermore, I hope to work on the translation of my research framework and ideology between the US and China, given the political and social environments are vastly different between the two countries. On the basis of research experiences, I will keep exploring how they can be applied to address real-life violence and leverage the tension between corporate practice and justice-centered framework.
Throughout the journey of research and practice in the tech industry, I will continue to explore my relationship with myself as a queer BIPOC designer and researcher and have difficult conversations with myself and my communities on critical issues like anti-Blackness, sexism, ableism, and homophobia.