Faces of UMSI: Marlon Phillips

Practical experience gave MSI graduate Marlon Phillips a cutting edge in his pursuit of a Human-Computer Interaction degree with a focus on Urban Planning.

Through his work with Citizen Interaction Design in Jackson, Mich., a joint project between UMSI and the City of Jackson, Marlon was part of a graduate student team that designed a web application to be used with Smartphones that encourages more people to ride the buses in Jackson and provides information to riders when routes change and when there are delays.

“My ultimate goal is to find a position to help the community take action or help improve the urban experience as a whole,” said Marlon, who has a BS in Urban and Regional Planning from Michigan State University. “Technology can be utilized to help people get things done in their community.”

The group worked on providing more signage for riders, instead of no signs or brochures taped to the walls of bus stops. City officials set up a separate government delivery app that allows them to send out notifications through Facebook, emails and text messages. “We rode the bus and interviewed people,” Marlon said. “We heard their gripes. With the website, we can push these notifications.”

Marlon’s web development and UX internships for GE Aviation and GE Capital provided him with invaluable real world insight. “I have a mentor I get to talk to one hour per week and ask them how they started in UX, how they’re doing their research, how they go about design, how they got to where they are now,” he said.

In May, Marlon headed to India to complete his Global Information Engagement Program work at Indian Institute of Human Settlements. Marlon and two other graduate students built a web app with census data and other data the Institute can have readily available online for researchers. Users can select a database based on geographic location and census data will be displayed on a map, which can be downloaded.