Faces of UMSI: Allison He
The NYC subway guide to finding a major
Allison He (BSI ’25) is from Queens, New York City — “I specify Queens,” she says, because among the five boroughs she worries it’s neglected. Queens shaped her sense of self.
“I grew up in a very tight-knit community. Everyone helps each other,” she says. “Growing up there also taught me a lot about diversity and taught me to be vocal about my opinions.”
A first-generation Chinese American and first-generation college student, Allison felt pressure to plan ahead. She went to a STEM-focused high school and assumed her journey through the computer science major at the University of Michigan would be like a straight shot on the subway: hop on, stay the course, hop off.
She was surprised, sophomore year, to find herself considering a transfer.
“I think I was trying to fit myself into a mold that I didn’t really fit into,” she says of computer science. Allison began reaching out to students in the School of Information for their perspectives and advice. Something clicked when she took a product design course that a UMSI student had recommended. Working in Figma, she began to reclaim the artistic interests she had given up after middle school.
“Being first-gen really played into that,” she says. “I thought, if I pursue art, I’m wasting my time because I won’t be able to make money.”
There are many obstacles first-generation students face during their college journeys, from lack of guidance to lack of financial resources. When Allison sees people who have made careers of their art, she is filled with admiration. But she also recognizes something: Many of them received external support to pursue those passions, or had a safety net to fall back on if their passions didn’t pay off.
This fall, she began the Bachelor of Science in Information at UMSI. On the user experience design path, she has found a way to merge her STEM background with her artistic interests. “When you’re designing, you have to think about where everything goes and what the user sees,” she says. “It’s a combination of my creative brain and also the logical side.”
She has found a community that, while smaller in size, carries the supportive qualities she loves in Queens. “I’ve made a lot of friends through UMSI, which I’m really grateful for,” she says. “I appreciate having female support, as well. The community is so welcoming.”
As for her destination, she’s sure of two things: She wants to work as a UX designer, and she wants to go back home to her favorite city.
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