From my perspective, the ID alumni network seems to be full of supportive professionals that understand where we are as students right now and are extremely willing to assist how/when they can. An alumni, focused in research, works for a company called Lextant which is an external research group that helps companies understand what their target audiences want, ado do a mix of evaluative and generative research... everything from their pain points to what users desire. This information is usually packaged up nicely with actionable suggestions to help the company to move forward with a project.
That said, I had this particular alumni as a professor for an intercession class focused on co-design and participatory design methods... and it was incredibly interesting. Ever since, I've been trying to find time to get over there and really see what research is like in the real world (everything seems different in academics, in my humble opinion). Turns out, I'll be spending a few days of the upcoming Spring Break to do just that! (I know, no Cancun or anything crazy for me... but this is still extremely exciting for me as I start to discover which, in the interplay of strategy and research, which I am truly more interested in).
I couldn't say enough good things about the support and willingness this particular professor/alumni has shared to help me on my professional path. Other students have said the same thing. That's one thing I noticed, even though my time as at IIT: Academically, I've had amazing support from advisors and professors to help me develop intellectually and professionally. Professors gave me room to explore ideas of importance to me, one even allowing me to work on a divergent topic from the rest of the class's focus to better prepare me for graduate school. My undergraduate advisor Stephen Sennott was very open to a few of us (as 5th year architecture students in our last semester) working closely with current ID graduate students to get a feel for the program. On the same note, Jeremy Alexis (whether he knows it or not) has been a huge foundation in my development and orientation at the school, and has allowed for some great opportunities for me to develop skills as a designer, facilitator, leader, and more. It always gives me hope knowing that he started in a similar place that I did (similar background) and where he's taken his education that I could do the same. Ok, now I'm on to a bit of a tangent, but that all to say that the support system (academically and professionally) is just one of many reasons why I find great value in the education I'm getting here.
The trip to Lextant was a great opportunity to learn more about how design research differs between companies. I'm currently taking a class with Ben Jacobson at Conifer who has different ideas and methods for research. I love having multiple perspectives. I'll write up another post on some of the things I noticed real world versus classroom.