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Alex Skibicki and Jenny Thai

SIAT pals Alex Skibicki and Jenny Thai face their careers with confidence.

SIAT courses alter grads’ career directions

May 28, 2009

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By Terry Lavender

Jenny Thai and Alex Skibicki aren’t too worried about what comes after graduation June 5. The two graduates of the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) four-year honours program say it has given them the work ethic and interpersonal and collaborative abilities they’ll need in the future.

Skibicki says her experiences at SIAT helped get her get accepted into UBC’s graduate architecture school. "Since Grade 9, I’ve wanted to study architecture but there’s no undergraduate program in British Columbia. SIAT allowed me to see design from a different point of view.

"Also, the number of projects we had to do, the intensity, the late nights—it was almost like being in grad school already."

Thai also feels the program has helped prepare her for the future. She’s already done an internship with IDEO, an internationally known design consultancy.

"I think that SIAT really provided me with a broad educational background—not just technical skills, but also interpersonal, work ethic and collaborative skills. There are a lot of transferable skills, knowledge and passion to bring into the industry if you go through the SIAT program."

SIAT was not the first choice for either of them. "I was thinking of doing computing science or business," says Thai, "but I wanted to be involved with more creative technology. I learned about the SIAT program and I took one course and really liked it." Skibicki originally wanted to study geography at SFU, but also changed her mind after taking a SIAT course.

A program highlight for both was working on North House, a collaborative effort by SFU, Waterloo and Ryerson to build a solar house for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon competition next fall. SFU is building the house’s "adaptive living interface," which allows inhabitants to adjust energy settings through touch controls built into the walls or remotely via cellphone or computer.

"It’s unique that undergraduate students like ourselves can be involved in a project such as North House," says Thai. "It was a good experience with real-world projects," adds Skibicki.

The two Vancouver grads are leaving SFU on a high note. Their Honours project, K.I.T. (Keep in Touch) has been chosen for Made in Brunel, an annual showcase for design and engineering graduates in the U.K. K.I.T. is a set of interactive, tangible, objects that allow users to express their emotions visually on a private online network.

But Keep in Touch could also stand for Thai and Skibicki’s relationship. The two Vancouverites met through SIAT and have since become good friends and collaborators.

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