Faces of UMSI: Jaren Johnson

BSI junior Jaren Johnson is new to campus. Jaren is a TV buff and aspiring voice actor who transferred to the University of Michigan from Eastern Michigan University in fall of 2017. 

His decision to transfer started with an information internship at Domino’s Inc. Jaren’s supervisor expected him to be familiar with topics not covered in class, and it became clear that he was going to need more advanced knowledge of computer information systems and that Michigan might be a better fit for him. 

Still, Jaren was apprehensive - the transfer process was daunting, and with a college as big as the University of Michigan, “I worried I’d be treated as just another number.” Yet Jaren soon learned that the School of Information is “a close knit environment” where “advisors know your name and say ‘come see us for an appointment’ even if you saw them yesterday. They make you feel at home.”

UMSI professors helped ease the transition. “I connected with every professor, which is something I never did before, even at a smaller school. I never felt comfortable enough to go into someone’s office hours and have a casual conversation. The professors here are open, and I’m genuinely interested in what they’re studying.”  

He elaborated, “Go to professor John Leslie King’s office, ask anything and he’ll have an answer. Assistant professor Casey Pierce, she’s wonderful to ask about jobs. Professor Nicole Ellison, she’s like the research guru, any topic dealing with social media, she either wrote about it or knows someone who did. And assistant professor Steve Oney, he’s a humble genius.”

Jaren’s favorite course so far is SI 335 Social Media Business Organizations. As a class project, he worked on Orangetheory Fitness’ social media campaign. “This was the first time in my undergraduate career that I was able to work with a client.” Jaren believes opportunities like these are invaluable. “It’s real world experience. You get to receive actual tangible feedback from clients.” Overall, his classes are “really cool… everything I’d done up to this point was simulations, and that’s no fun.”

Attending an information session and talking with Katy Peters, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Programs, Jaren learned which career paths are available with a BSI. “I’m so excited. They had an infographic that said average starting salary $70,000. I almost dropped the pamphlet, I thought they were joking. But this is what grads have self-reported. They’ve made some money and they’re enjoying what they do.” After a few months at UMSI, “I can see where I can apply these skills in the modern workplace.” Jaren hopes to one day work on the front end design of social media apps. 

Currently, Jaren and a fellow UMSI student are at work with optiMize to develop an app that pairs high school mentees from inner city communities with college students at nearby universities. “If our design is empowering someone from an inner city who wouldn’t otherwise reach out or think that education is possible, that’s a powerful tool.” Jaren plans to pilot the app in Ypsilanti then expand to Detroit and Chicago. 

At Eastern, Jaren was President of the Black Student Union and was given a Great Expectations award for leadership by the Detroit Branch NAACP. “My experiences at EMU taught me to become a leader of myself and others.” Now, “At U of M, I’m getting the most well rounded academic experience I can have.” 

He’s looking forward to taking UX courses, continuing his project with optiMize, and possibly studying abroad. Jaren’s goal is to “stay humble, stay focused, graduate, then be a leader and the absolute best I can be.” 

Author: Brooke White, Editorial Assistant