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April 17, 2023

Celebrating First-Generation College Graduates in UI/UX and Software Development

Yany Avelar had plenty of hustle but not a lot of connections.

The young graphic designer knew she wanted to build websites and lead web design teams, but she didn’t have much experience in the professional world.

She needed to learn the technical aspects of web development, and was looking for an advanced education in software development and user interface/user experience (UI/UX) strategy.

The University of Denver’s University College was one of the few schools that offered master’s degree programs in both. When the college’s advisors reached out to her personally to help map out her dual degree plan, she knew this was the place to pursue her dreams.

“I felt like there was a ton of support,” she said. “And having that support was important.”

Avelar is a first-generation college student. She was raised in California and South Dakota by parents who immigrated from El Salvador and worked in construction and property management. They weren’t able to help her navigate the unknown territory of college life.

“I didn’t do that well in undergrad,” she said, “I just did it because I knew I was supposed to do it. [In the master’s programs] I took it much more seriously because it was something I really wanted.”

Bringing a Dream to Life

Avelar had a clear vision of what she wanted her future to be: channeling both her creative and her analytical sides into a set of proficiencies that would be valued by tech and marketing companies.

“One of the reasons I pursued design and technology is because I can positively impact people in my community with empathy-focused solutions,” she said. “I really believe that equity can create a better world for everyone.”

Avelar began her degrees from her home base in Portland just after the pandemic began, and was nervous about completing her degree online. But she found that the courses were everything she’d hoped for. She collaborated on projects with other students, and got plenty of interaction and one-on-one help from her instructors.

“Having professors who were working in these fields was really helpful,” Avelar said. “They were able to take things out of the school context and put them into real-world terms.”

Avelar excelled in her classes and graduated at the end of 2022 with a 3.97 GPA in two master’s degrees: an M.A. in Communications Management with a concentration in UX Strategy, and an M.S. in Information and Communications Technology with a concentration in Software Design & Programming.


  1. This blog post highlights the importance of UI/UX in software development careers. It’s a must-read for anyone aspiring to excel in this field!

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