One SUNY Oswego graduate student had the opportunity to help one major medical manufacturing company improve communication within its own walls.

Dan Cutler, a graduate student in the human-computer interaction program, got to work at Welch Allyn for the summer as a Festa fellowship recipient.

Making an impact

“This past month I’ve been working with [technical communication and user experience manager] John McGloon going over design processes, work flows, and things involved in user experience,” Cutler said.

While he can’t talk about everything he’s working on, Cutler’s responsibilities aim to standardize user experience at Welch Allyn and showcase the different work each department at the company, he said.

The project has the potential to change the way the medical manufacturing company operates.

“It’s definitely a great feeling working on a project with so much potential,” Cutler said. “I was learning about all these things in the classroom and I wanted to experience it, so I’m very happy I have this opportunity.”

Opportunities abroad

Cutler’s fellowship came from one of his past projects, when Cutler traveled to Brazil as part of a STEM research trip that included 15 students from the SUNY system. Of the 15 SUNY students, seven were from SUNY Oswego.

Cutler’s research focused on an alternative form of closed captioning for public broadcasting stations in the country.

His previous project had a major impact on the South American nation. The federal government of Brazil needed help communicating with its deaf citizens, as the majority of deaf people in Brazil do not learn how to read, only sign.

“They had been working on it for a long time, having a computer generated avatar that would sign to the people watching TV,” Cutler said. “But they had problems programming it because regular students didn’t know sign language and deaf users didn’t understand how to put signs in because they couldn’t read.”

Over his two months in Brazil, Cutler did usability testing and design adjustments to improve the program.

“I’m going to be credited with some of the work they did and that’s something I can’t get from the classroom,” he said. “That’s something I only got because of Oswego’s connections and I’m very glad I had the opportunity.”

Global conference

HCI Director Damian Schofield asked him to present his research at the SUNY Conference for Global Studies, where he learned Welch Allyn was looking for another HCI student to work for the summer.

“I’m going to be credited with some of the work they did and that’s something I can’t get from the classroom. That’s something I only got because of Oswego’s connections and I’m very glad I had the opportunity.”

“I did the application and got the job,” Cutler said. “This is a great experience that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”

Cutler credits his experience in the HCI master’s program to the role Schofield played throughout his education.

“He’s absolutely the most influential person of my graduate career,” Cutler said. “He cares extremely well for his students and makes an effort to go above and beyond.”

Lasting connections

The small class size allowed Cutler to build a relationship with his adviser.

“He only has around 20 students, but without a shadow of doubt Damian cares about the experiences his students have,” he said. “That attitude he has and holds himself to makes us interested and want to do well.”

Cutler graduated with his bachelor’s degree in technical education from SUNY Oswego in 2009. He decided to continue at SUNY Oswego for his master’s degree because of the familiar atmosphere, but wasn’t sure what degree he wanted to pursue.

“I went to the graduate studies office and explained how I wasn’t sure what I wanted and the secretary introduced me to the new programs,” Cutler said.

The HCI program, which began in 2004, immediately interested Cutler.

“It combined psychology, computer science, all my interests into one program,” he said. “I took a class to get a feel of the program and I loved it, it was exactly what I was looking for.”

Cutler had big post-graduation plans: “I’m shooting for the stars. I want to apply at places like Google and Microsoft,” he said. “I see myself pursuing something in the HCI field instead of in technical education.

“There are so many opportunities that I now qualify for, I’m confident I will be able to find a job and what I love doing, it’s just a matter of time.”