10 years of preparing students for new roles, new industries, and new horizons

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

“Wow, people get paid to do this??”

That was Amirah Mahomed’s thought when she learned about the field of User Experience (UX) Design as a first-year student in Global Business and Digital Arts (GBDA) at the Stratford School. “I had no idea that UX design was a field,” she says. “I had pictured my career as a businessperson who knew how to code, or something like that.”

Amirah Mahomed headshotNow, Amirah (BGBDA ’20) is Lead of Design at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Innovation Lab, testing ways to help prevent workplace injury and speed recovery for workers. She is among the 98 percent of GBDA graduates employed in creative, business or technology industries.

But when Amirah was starting her first undergraduate classes, UX design was still an obscure career choice. Since the Stratford School’s opening ten years ago this September, the field has grown dramatically — in fact, in 2017 GBDA was recognized as Canada’s best undergraduate program in UX Design. As its students move from classroom to career, the School’s programs ensure they bring with them the tools to address persistent global problems, design sustainable solutions, and push for inclusivity in their workplaces.

Amirah’s journey to the Stratford School started on a whim when she added Waterloo’s GBDA program as her fifth university application. But when it came time to choose among offers, the Stratford School’s warmth and collaborative style won her over:

“I wanted to be in a space where I could be challenged, but also supported, and I felt like GBDA was going to do that for me.”

From her first year, Amirah was drawn to design, and during her senior year she advanced her design skills with entrepreneurship and a chance to address a serious global issue: plastic pollution. Together with a capstone team of four classmates, she developed a solution for plastic waste in the Philippines—a country that struggles with plastic waste pollution in its waterways.

Their project, Virtuous Waste, developed a sustainable, seaweed-based single-use biodegradable plastic that was infused with nutrients that would help to clean seawater. The idea won $25,000 in the 2019 World Vision Social Innovation Challenge. “That project gave me a lot of skillsets in a way that I hadn’t anticipated,” says Amirah. “And it gave me the ability to collaborate with a lot of people in different capacities.”

Students winning the World Vision Social Innovation Challenge AwardAfter graduating with her GBDA degree, she completed a master’s in design health at OCAD University. Today she helps train GBDA’s next generation working as co-op students at the WSIB Innovation Lab. The Stratford School continues to open new horizons for its students, Amirah reflects: “Our GBDA co-op students said the same thing I did—that they hadn’t realized UX was an option. It’s amazing to think how many new jobs, new roles, new industries are growing these days, and it’s cool to already have that experience coming out of university.”