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University of Michigan School of Information


Aarti Israni

A headshot of Aarti Israni


I am a User Experience (UX) researcher and currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. In collaboration with the Social Innovations Group, directed by my advisor, Dr. Tawanna Dillahunt, I study social media and identity transitions in the space of the future of work - that is, how individuals seek information and emotional support as they transition to different forms of work and the opportunities for technology (including but not limited to social media) to support their transitions.

Specifically, my research aims to understand how socio-technical interventions can better support aspiring entrepreneurs in financially-constrained communities in their journeys to become entrepreneurs. For many financially-constrained individuals, many of whom are racial minorities, becoming an entrepreneur is not easy. In addition to navigating limited access to financial capital for launching a business, research suggests that when compared to their white counterparts, minority entrepreneurs face multiple challenges including reduced access to social networks, financial capital, and digital support for their businesses. My prior work suggests community-based organization (CBO)-supported peer group interventions provide a promising source of informational and emotional support, helping financially-constrained aspiring entrepreneurs make progress towards their entrepreneurial goals, and overcome setbacks. However, the efficacy of these peer-based interventions hinges on individuals’ pre-existing connections to individuals with shared goals, interests and values. Therefore, the overarching question that my dissertation addresses is, How might peer-based interventions facilitate financially-constrained aspiring entrepreneurs’ work-role transitions, especially for individuals that have limited access or awareness of connections with entrepreneurial interests and/or expertise? I draw from theories of psychological safety and identity transition scholarship and employ both qualitative (interviews, observations, focus groups) and quantitative (longitudinal survey) methods of research to address this question.

My research has been published in top-Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) venues such as Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and the CHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 

Prior to joining UMSI, I completed my Masters in Human-Computer Interaction at DePaul University in 2016, where I worked with Prof. Sheena Erete and Prof. Denise Nacu in the Technology for Social Good Lab. There I led research projects aimed at understanding opportunities for technology to support people living in under-resourced communities in the contexts of safety, education, and accessibility. I received my B.S. from University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign in General Engineering in 2010. I have also applied my research skills to industry internships at Meta, informing tactical and strategic opportunities for data transparency and Q&A engagement. 

View Aarti's CV

Selected Publications

Israni, A., Hui, J., Dillahunt, T.R. (2023). Opportunities for Social Media to Support Aspiring Entrepreneurs with Financial Constraints. Proc. ACM Hum.-Computer. Interactions. 7, CSCW1, Article 143. 

Dillahunt, T. R., Lu, A. J., Israni, A., Lodha, R., Brewer, S., Robinson, T. S., ... & Wheeler, E. (2022, April). The Village: Infrastructuring Community-based Mentoring to Support Adults Experiencing Poverty. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-17).Chicago

Israni, A., Ellison, N.B., Dillahunt, T.R. (2021). `A Library of People’: Online Resource-Seeking in Low-Income Communities. In Proc. ACM Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 5, No. CSCW1, Article 152.

Dillahunt, T.R. *Israni, A., *Lu, A.J., Cai, M., Hsiao, J.C.Y. (2021). Examining the Use of Online Platforms for Employment: A Survey of US Job Seekers. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21) *equal contribution

Erete, S., Israni, A., & Dillahunt, T. (2018). An intersectional approach to designing in the margins. Interactions, 25(3), 66-69. 

Israni, A., Erete, S., & Smith, C. L. (2017, February). Snitches, Trolls, and Social Norms: Unpacking Perceptions of Social Media Use for Crime Prevention. In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (pp. 1193-1209).

Dillahunt, T. R., Erete, S., Galusca, R., Israni, A., Nacu, D., & Sengers, P. (2017, February). Reflections on design methods for underserved communities. In Companion of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (pp. 409-413).