OSU App Center provides launch point for students
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
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In a quiet corner of the Henry Bellmon Research Center on Oklahoma State University’s main campus resides the App Center.
It is a place where OSU students learn mobile app design and development in real-world scenarios. It also offers students the opportunity to jump headfirst into their careers.
Jai Hari Rajendran, manager of the OSU App Center and Technology and Business Development at OSU, has led the app center since 2013.
“We provide the opportunity for students to get trained on all aspects of mobile app design and development,” he said.
More than one student forged ahead, not only finding a job in app design and development but landing a dream job. Sarah Fabian graduated in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a minor in Studio Art. She now works for Git Wit, a digital creative agency in Tulsa — a coveted position, even for an experienced app developer.
Fabian, one of only three OSU graduates who Git Wit has hired directly out of school, is an example of the kind of opportunity the OSU App Center provides students.
“Our students work in an environment that mimics the industry setting where they are assigned on app projects with clients and deliverables,” Rajendran said. “They learn by doing the work and from feedback from clients. The final product is published and used by thousands.”
Git Wit provides services for brands and ideas, “doing everything it requires to concept and launch new digital products,” said Jacob Johnson, Git Wit principal and strategist.
“We've now hired three people from the OSU App Center. It's the only place we've ever hired designers fresh out of school,” Johnson said. “We've got to have people who can just jump in and go.”
Rajendran credits the program’s success to its hands-on, practical approach.
Preparation is key and an integral part of the hands-on curriculum through the OSU App Center.
“Git Wit is throwing these designers into complex problems and issues for everything
from the government level and startup level all the way up to the Fortune 100 level,"
Johnson adds, “... And we're getting them right out of college and getting them up to speed in a matter of a few months, while teaching them the ropes of our way.”
Fabian said her experience with the OSU App Center prepared for anything and everything in the professional world. One of the most unique experiences of her time at OSU even came from the App Center.
“I had minimal context on Ui/Ux design and its entailed,” Fabian said. “Being able to dive into something that dictates so much of our day-to-day lives was exciting and very meticulous. I had no idea how tedious and detailed every aspect of Ui/Ux design was.”
Fabian gained a greater appreciation for app designers along the way. She said it is an extremely long road to innovate and not only make a product better, but also make it more user-friendly while the standards of design are constantly evolving.
The App Center also offered Fabian the first opportunity to share and explain her work to clientele rather than just her peers.
Megan Horton, a member of the App Center’s steering committee and interim associate
vice president for brand management said, "The app center is not only a great resource
for students and external partners but offers a launch point for these students to
enter the workforce and begin impactful careers."
Hailey Caldwell, also an OSU graduate and a student of The App Center, said her experience there was professionally empowering.
“I think the biggest thing The App Center did was grow my understanding of what it was like working on a team, working with clients, managing my time and independently thinking as a lead designer.”
Caldwell graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design in December 2020 and also worked at The App Center for more than two years. She was hired at Git Wit in September of 2021.
“One of the hottest jobs around, meaning there's a ton of demand and there's very little qualified supply, are product designers, and you can call them UX UI designers, but I think that's a bit narrow,” Johnson said. “You have to have these people who can find the center of three rings, right? So it's kind of human desirability meets economic viability meets technical feasibility.”
"The entire experience is surreal nonetheless,” Caldwell said. “I've always heard that I should just try to get my foot in the door somewhere and be OK with it, then one day I will have the job I've always wanted. There is nothing wrong with this, but I wasn't ready to settle. I went through a lot of imposter syndrome while job hunting; faced a lot of rejection and questioned a lot of the things I knew and didn't know. I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted in a job and I never doubted that Git Wit was the place for me. Here I am, I made it, and I still feel like it's all a dream.”
The OSU App Center focuses on student development and by doing so has created a springboard to success for graduates. Git Wit and OSU App Center fortuitously merged on a path of success with supply and demand.