GfK Invests in User Experience Research at University of Chicago

April 24, 2013

GfK’s User Experience (UX) team has partnered with the University of Chicago Master of Arts Program in Social Sciences (MAPSS) to establish the “MAPSS Fund for Applied Research,” a restricted gift from GfK. Beginning with this year’s first recipient, the purpose of the fund will be to award micro-grants and mentoring support for master’s thesis research students enrolled in the program.

“GfK’s User Experience consultants have been very impressed with the level of critical thinking and core research skills associated with those in the MAPSS program,” says Gavin Lew, executive vice president of GfK’s User Experience group. “We already employ eight MAPSS grads, and thought we’d give back to the program to encourage a hands-on, practical perspective to applied research.”

MAPSS is a multi-disciplinary one-year master’s program embedded in the University of Chicago Social Sciences Division. Students customize their coursework and independent research according to individual academic and career goals. The micro-grants will be awarded to students who have put forward research proposals focused on user experience, specifically human experiences with technology.

“This is exciting because it’s the first and only fund dedicated to supporting research for MAPSS students,” says Kirsten Jerch, a UX consultant at GfK and former MAPSS student. “MAPSS is filled with creative, ambitious students, but the compressed time frame of the program makes it almost impossible to turn to traditional sources of grant support. For a MAPSS project, even just a few hundred dollars can allow a week at a field site, compensating respondents for completing a survey, or purchasing access to an obscure library resource. GfK’s micro-grants will afford students interested in user experience an opportunity to invest in their research, while minimizing the frustrations of lengthy foundation grant-making cycles.”   

In addition to receiving funding for research activities, award recipients will have access to GfK’s UX facilities and equipment, and will also receive project support and guidance from a GfK mentor. This represents several thousand dollars of related in-kind contributions to each grantee.

“I’m excited that GfK can give students access to the world’s most sophisticated UX labs so that they can conduct critical research to operationally define and measure experiences,” says Lew. 

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