CIJ alumna returns to speak to students

New York Times user experience research analyst visits Hamline.

Catherine Stolz, Reporter

One of Hamline’s many successful communications majors returned to Hamline on Monday, October 5, to speak to current students in the Communications and International Journalism programs about her work experience as well as finding a job and navigating the field.

Maura Youngman, Class of 2009, spoke to students in Professor Suda Ishida’s media classes about her experience working in the communications field internationally and nationally.

Youngman majored in Communications at Hamline as well as receiving the International Journalism Certificate.  She went on to graduate school at the University of Michigan and later interned at Harvard University and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

Youngman spent time doing her graduate research in Rwanda, Russia and India and currently works for the New York Times as a newsroom and product user researcher.

In Rwanda, she worked as a user experience researcher to better understand how people use the technology around them.  Youngman shared what she learned in Rwanda with students, saying, “throwing technology at people and hoping it will solve all their problems will in fact not solve anything. We need to understand how they use technology in order to make it useful.”

Youngman focused most of her talk on her current work, outlining research methods and techniques to observe how users access the news in order to reach a wider audience and expand demographics. Her department works with all branches of the Times, including various news desks and behind the scenes departments such as public relations and advertising.  “We are kind of like Switzerland,” Youngman said, “We have the newsroom on one side and advertising on the other.” She spoke about some of the research techniques used to understand how New York Times readers and news consumers in general access the news, including interviews, surveys, usability testing, and digital media logging.

Youngman and her team are currently working on methods for the Times to reach a younger audience, conducting research on how eighteen to thirty year olds consume news.  This “Millennial Research” includes in-home observation, following young adults throughout their day in order to better understand where they get their news. Youngman’s department then analyzes the collected data and works with various departments to apply the data.  Her team has put together an interactive app with paragraphs of text and photographs that the user can swipe through to get the main points of the news stories.

Youngman was eager to answer students’ questions about the communications field and her experience after graduating from Hamline. She shared how her international research experience has helped her in her current position, saying she has a “better understanding of how large, diverse groups interact with each other and use media.” Youngman highly encouraged students to study or conduct research abroad.

Youngman also gave advice to future Hamline graduates in the communications field. She said that finding a job is “not as bad as you think it is,” and assured students that communications is a constantly expanding field.  She also spoke about the power of networking, telling students to show their passion when talking to others in the field.  “Know why you want to be there,” Youngman said, “and embrace the thing you want to do.”