Skip to main content
Student Experiences

Breaking Professional Barriers

Imagine you are in a cave. The sound of water drops to the floor from stalactites-—drip, drip, drip. The only light you see comes from a small lantern in your left hand. Every step you take echoes through the cave. As you move around a corner, the lights turn on, and you realize you were actually in a conference room.

ExDQ participants share ideas about how to improve experiences at their companies
ExDQ participants share ideas about how to improve experiences at their companies

Though your cave-like experience seemed authentic, it was actually a well-designed experience created by experience designers. The experience design and management program at BYU Marriott seeks to teach students and professionals how to create authentic experiences such as the one described above.

For the past five years, the ExDM Department has put on an experience design professional development conference. As the department teamed up with Cotopaxi this year, it reached new heights by creating a unique professional experience paralleling the Cotopaxi Questival, a twenty-four-hour outdoor adventure race. The Experience Design Quest (ExDQ) conference took place this year in the Tanner Building on 12-13 April.

“If you can provide people with immersive experiences, they are going to be more engaged in the content,” says Mat Duerden, ExDM assistant professor. “Research suggests that if you combine content, application, and immersion, people are more likely to push towards mastery.”

BYU professor Mat Duerden speaks to ExDQ participants
BYU professor Mat Duerden speaks to ExDQ participants

Participants at this year’s ExDQ conference received a map on the Cotopaxi Questival app that led them through a series of challenges designed to make professionals think critically about how to enhance company experiences. On the second day, professionals were given the opportunity to apply what they learned to an actual problem or desired improvement within their company.

Not only did professionals from companies such as Adobe and Nike acquire benefits from the conference, but students did as well. Students were given the opportunity to participate hands-on in the conference, while also networking with professionals from a wide variety of companies.

“It was a fun opportunity for our students,” Duerden says. “We wanted to provide them with a chance to interact with professionals in a way that they were networking while also delivering content.”

Elise Jubeck and Emily Sorensen, therapeutic recreation seniors, definitely experienced the benefits of the professional networking opportunity at ExDQ. As student brand ambassadors for the TR major, Jubeck and Sorensen helped put the event together. Because of the opportunity to work closely with Cotopaxi, the students were offered a contract to work on a No Barriers Summit featuring a Cotopaxi Questival in October.

Participants sit blindfolded and wait for the next experience to unfold at ExDQ
Participants sit blindfolded and wait for the next experience to unfold at ExDQ

“Participating in and helping with the conference was amazing,” Jubeck says. “Working with our professors one-on-one and exploring what we could do to push our own limits helped to make it a great experience and opened up this whole opportunity with Cotopaxi as well.”

The ExDM department received so much positive feedback that it is currently evaluating whether or not it will put on another conference of this caliber next year.

“I applaud the faculty and students for designing an exceptional event that was incredibly valuable and memorable,” says Ben Rabner, head of experiential marketing at Adobe and 2018 Quest participant.


Writer: Sydney Zenger