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Alumni Update with Ayanna Mendoza

A woman with her hand on her hip smiles at the camera

Alumni Update with Ayanna Mendoza

By: Max Ciot

Ayanna Mendoza is a DTC Alumna currently working as a Brand Design Specialist at Pullman Regional Hospital. She originally interviewed for the position right before she graduated in May 2020. However, due to COVID-19 pandemic she was not able to immediately start. She instead moved to Boise while she waited to start her position at the hospital and then was graciously able to accept and continue the position remotely.

Ayanna has always been an artistic person that has wanted to do graphic design and digital art as a career choice. While she was working her way towards a bachelor’s degree in DTC, Ayanna started contemplating a more traditional career at the end of her sophomore year and explored nursing. She even earned her certification to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Although this increased her appreciation for healthcare workers, Ayanna is a creative at heart and missed the collaborative environment and expression in the DTC program. This made her realize that nursing was not the career for her, so by her senior year she made her way back to the DTC program.

Ayanna’s position at the hospital also feels serendipitous. Ayanna grew up in Pullman and was even born at Pullman Regional Hospital (technically Pullman Memorial Hospital which has now evolved into the WSU Health & Wellness Center before it expanded to the current location and underwent the name change). It is also where she worked during her time as a CNA. While her work on the marketing team is very different, her previous experience as a CNA is what led her back to the organization. Ayanna loves working at Pullman Regional Hospital and states that the organization and people she works with are amazing and that the work culture is wonderful.

As a Brand and Design specialist, Ayanna is on a small team for external relations. She assists in marketing efforts to provide visual assets for both print and digital means that support internal departments and their clinic network, social media, their website and blog, and community outreach efforts. Alongside this Ayanna ensures all content is on-brand and cohesive and collaborates with other members of her team for larger marketing campaigns and strategy development. This was and wasn’t a job that Ayanna thought about doing during her time at WSU. She always wanted to explore the marketing aspect of design, and while she loved her hometown and the family she leaves behind, she also always wanted to venture out of Pullman as she loves big cities. Currently working remotely from Boise, she states her gratitude for being able to keep one foot, and a piece of her heart, in Pullman.

During her time as a Brand and Design specialist, Ayanna has already worked on quite a few projects. One of her favorite projects is the Birth Control E-Book print publication that she was able to work on. Her team worked with one of the Physician Assistants, Teresa Tomaszewski, to develop content on birth control and the types of birth controls that are available. Ayanna says that women’s healthcare is a passion of hers, and also one of the reasons why she briefly pursued nursing. Through this project she was able to join her passion for women’s healthcare with her creative passion in order to create a visual representation of relevant, reliable, and accessible information.

Recently, Ayanna’s team also started investing some of the budget into digital ad design. Throughout their efforts, they have been able to expand their subscribers significantly. She is very proud of this as the digital community and content her team, and providers, have created directly respond to the community’s needs and interests and deserve so much recognition.

Another project Ayanna is currently working on is a print publication that is published biannually She enjoys the more traditional design work as well- there is nothing like having something tangible to hold onto and see “fresh off the press”!

For more information on Ayanna and to see more of her work, check out her personal portfolio.


Aidan Develops AR/VR Field Trip

Aidan Aumell Develops AR/VR Field Trip to Kamiak Butte

By: Max CiotKamiak Butte Virtual Field Trip

Aidan Aumell had the opportunity to work as an intern at an Augmented Reality (AR) program this past summer called “Simply Augmented” as well as working previously at WSU Virtual Reality Research Lab. This sparked his interest in AR and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences, specifically in how it can be used in educational settings, especially environmental education.

Aidan took SOE 300: Natural Resource Ecology in the Spring Semester of 2020 taught by Dr. William E. Schlosser, known to his students as Dr. Bill. Typically every semester there is an in-person class field trip to Kamiak Butte County Park. Unfortunately, Aidan was in one of the last groups of students to visit the park prior to the start of the global pandemic in Spring of 2020. Aidan shared his ideas with Dr. Schlosser about integrating 360 videos, AR, and VR into the environmental education system prior to the start of the pandemic. However, when it began, they started actively collaborating on creating an accessible virtual field trip for future students of the class to experience.

Previously, Aidan had some interesting AR related experiences in his internship work at Simply Augmented that helped him prepare for his work on the Kamiak Butte project. For example, Smithsonian Museum released artifacts to the public domain. For his internship he downloaded 3D models from the Smithsonian website, adjusted the size and height of the 3D models, and placed them into Simply Augmented’s personal augmented reality software program. The program allows you to load 3D models into it and have an augmented reality experience with them. He also wrote blog posts with lesson plans, and descriptions of the objects which could be used as an activity by teachers during social distancing.

Aidan believes that AR and VR can provide students and teachers alike with a unique experience. He states that it is a “very educational tool that is under utilized in classrooms due to it being very new” and can see the implementation of it more in the future due to social distancing, and the accessibility it provides in the current pandemic. The reason Aidan and Dr. Bill created this virtual field trip was to substitute the real field trip from a distance, they plan to continue using this virtual field trip along with the real one when COVID ends.

The AR/VR field trip to Kamiak Butte consists of an interactive tour that includes 360 videos (filmed by Aidan himself), drone videos (recorded by doctoral environmental science student, Danny Auchieb), wildlife photography (managed by an Environmental Science Teaching Assistant that is enthusiastic about wildlife photography, Dylan Koopmans) and narration (by Dr. Bill). Aidan created the virtual field trip with an e-learning software Adobe Captivate to build interactive tour of Kamiak Butte.

Aidan organized the project and collaborated with team members Madison Kilkenny, Tholen Blasko, Emily Barrier, Austin Aumell, Danny Auerbach, Dylan Koopman, and Dr. Bill to launch the project.

In the virtual field trip interface, viewers teleport to various locations within Kamiak Butte to learn about the ecology, geology, and cultural and tribal significance related to the butte. In various butte locations viewers click on icons to bring up text, narrated videos, drone videos, and even change the season within a VR view.

Tree data is represented visually throughout the virtual field trip, showing physical site characteristics, tree species, size, height, and population density. Viewers record this data as it is processed to discover how trees capture atmospheric carbon molecules to sequester carbon in roots, stems, and foliage. Students have discovered how much carbon is sequestered in individual trees, how much is contained in each species, and how much is sequestered in the entire forest. Viewers place meaning on assertions about the carbon sequestration in the forests they visit, even in the virtual reality interface.

Aidan also developed an open source website to host the field trip along with the VR/AR experiences and more. Due to his previous web-design experience, he was able to create this website nearly from scratch. Students are able to access the virtual field trip using not only VR headsets, but also through desktop computers and mobile devices. Aidan developed a 3D map of Kamiak Butte’s topography for students to view in augmented reality as well. You can view the website here.

Device showing 3D Map of Kamiak Butte
3D Map of Kamiak Butte in Augmented Reality

Aidan also has a handful of projects he is hoping to work on within the next few years, however, he still has a way to go on his Kamiak Butte project. Aidan is currently filming at three locations in Kamiak Butte every month for a year in order to show seasonal change shown here. Furthermore, he has talked about working with local tribes and the school of medicine to incorporate diverse information about into the project as well. Furthermore, he has talked about working on more projects with various classes at WSU, local tribes, and small local businesses.

Once the Kamiak Butte project is done, it’s effect on Aidan’s life trajectory will continue to solidify. During this project Dr. Bill inspired Aidan to go to graduate school. Aidan applied and will be starting in the Spring. He will be pursing a masters degree in education curriculum and instruction and hopes to keep developing more AR/VR experiences for educational settings at WSU. He will also be working at the VR2GO LAB with Dr. Don McMahon in graduate school. Aidan dreams of using his Digital Technology and Culture background and his newly gained knowledge in the master’s educational program to create VR/AR experiences for students across the globe. He hopefully wants to continue working in the education realm and aligning AR/VR experiences in already-established curriculum.


New Faculty Member Jacob Riddle

DTC Welcomes New Faculty Member Jacob Riddle

By: Max Ciot


A man looks into the camera over a zoom meeting


This fall, the Digital Technology and Culture program welcomes another new faculty member, Jacob Riddle. He brings to the program over eight years of experience teaching in art and technology related fields, and 15 years of experience working with technology itself.

During Fall 2020, Jacob is teaching DTC 201: Tools and Methods for Digital Technology and DTC 335: 3D Animation this semester. In the future, he is excited to teach a new course to the DTC Pullman campus, DTC 492: Engines and Platforms, and DTC 435: Advanced Animation. In the past, he’s taught a variety of different subjects, such as an internet art class, and he hopes to teach related subjects in the future at WSU. He also taught a digital sculpture class at Syracuse University that focused on 3D modelling where you could scan physical objects into the digital world, or print digital objects into the physical world.

For the past year, Jacob was a visiting professor in the Art & Technology program at the University of Oregon. He states it was a great opportunity, albeit a little complicated due to the short notice he received. He lived in a camper in Eugene, Oregon for a year. Previously, however, he was in New York at Syracuse University where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Transmedia. He stuck around after graduation and ended up spending nearly seven years at the university. Jacob also returned to New York with his camper once the University of Oregon went online. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and ran an art gallery for a few years.

Jacob’s background is all over the place, which he says is a specialty in its own way. With a background in construction and fabrication, he has skills that go hand in hand with digital content creation. He thinks of himself as a person who collects skills, and when working on a project he seeks out how to finish it. Tools don’t get to dictate the direction his project is going.

One of Jacob’s proudest achievements is the impact and connections he gets to create with his students. One such example is one of his previous students reaching out to share a typeface generated using Artificial Intelligence that they had created. Jacob is also proud of a collaboration with the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University. Through this collaboration students in his classes 3D scanned objects in the SCRC’s Plastics Collection and utilized the collection as primary research material. More information about this collaboration can be found on in this blog post. This collection focused on plastics. Jacob also worked with a few classes to digitize the collection and show that it can be used as research material.

Jacob has a website at Jacob.Expert if you are interested in finding out more.


Alumni Update with Jessica Meadows

Alumni Update with Jessica Meadows

By: Max Ciot

A woman smiles at the camera.

Jessica Meadows is a Digital Technology and Culture alumna with a passion for building and revamping web applications so they are accessible for everyone. After graduating from the DTC program in 2005 she continued working at the Distance Degree Program (now Academic Outreach and Innovation) while job searching. She then transitioned to a small startup company as a Technology Support Specialist before finding a job at the American Heart Association where she has been working and moving up the ladder for almost 14 years.

The American Heart Association is a nonprofit organization in the United States which educates consumers on living healthily, funds cardiovascular research, and tries to reduce the number of disabilities and deaths caused by strokes and cardiovascular diseases.

Working at the American Heart Association taught Jessica the importance of web accessibility, which she says is a standard that many websites fail to adhere to. Currently, she works with vendors and various business groups as an Application Analyst. Every day is different, so while sometimes she will be managing applications or running audits across their digital applications, other days she is pulled in as a resource on projects where there are gaps.

Originally, Jessica was in the MIS (Management Information Systems) program at WSU, but realised she did not want to be a developer and switched majors to DTC in her junior year, which she states is the best decision ever. While at WSU, Jessica was also part of the Digital Media Club and involved in extra curricular sports; her team even won the co-ed softball championship one year.

Outside of her work at the American Heart Association, Jessica has a personal project managing an Instagram account for her dog, Monte, whom she and her husband adopted three years ago.

Some advice that Jessica has for DTC students currently studying at WSU is to “listen, be empathetic, follow your passion, volunteer, utilize your friends, family, and professors for guidance and wisdom if unsure. They will support you.” An anecdote she also has for us is when she broke her finger playing basketball, and was told by a professor that she would never have a career with anything related to typing because her finger would not heal correctly. Jessica states “don’t listen to those that don’t build you up”.