Faces of UMSI: Andrea Barbarin
While volunteering at an Ann Arbor non-profit, Andrea Barbarin was inspired by a group of UMSI students who were tasked with creating a plan to increase donations for the company through Google AdWords.
“I don’t think UMSI students realize how far reaching their group reports might be,” said Andrea, a UMSI PhD student. “It might actually inspire someone to go to the School of Information.”
Before coming to UMSI, Andrea worked as an attorney specializing in international telecommunications law. She worked in law firms in Washington DC and in Germany for the country’s Telecom Regulatory Authority. Andrea also had experience in the not-for-profit sector working at Amnesty International and the Legal Aid Society of DC, as well as serving as a DC Commissioner advising the mayor on Latino community development issues and adjudicating human rights complaints. But despite all her accomplishments, Andrea started to feel like her career path wasn’t the one she should be on. So in 2009 she returned to her hometown of Ann Arbor.
“Over time I realized that practicing law wasn’t my calling,” said Andrea. “I really enjoyed building up relationships with clients and the challenge of advising them on complex telecom law and policy, but something was missing. At a certain point, I realized life is too short to not be doing work that I truly love.”
While pursuing her MSI in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Andrea took a course with associate professor Soo Young Rieh focusing on ethnographic research methods of interviewing. “Talking to people about their lives and how information fit into that, it was an extension of how I naturally interact with people,” she said. “I just had this feeling of ‘this is what I’m supposed to be doing – this is where I should be.’ I also had the opportunity to attend a talk given by my current advisor, associate professor. Tiffany Veinot. I spoke to Dr. Veinot after her talk and told her about some of my interests. She asked me, ‘Have you ever thought about getting a PhD?’ I had not. So that started my path to apply to the PhD program.”
Andrea’s current research focuses on consumer health issues in underserved communities. Through Home Tour Photography, Andrea studies how people with HIV/AIDS and type 2 diabetes use health artifacts and devices in their homes. Findings from this research provide design recommendations for consumer health products. Additionally, Andrea is interested in researching ways that information technology can be used to support health behavior changes for type 2 diabetes.
Andrea obtained her Juris Doctor from The George Washington University Law School and her BA in the College of Social Studies, a multidisciplinary major focusing on History, Government, Political and Social Theory, and Economics, from Wesleyan University. She plans to graduate in 2017 and work at an academic institution or research hospital.