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Scholarship Judges

Lisa Mercer

Lisa Elzey Mercer (she/her) is an assistant professor in graphic design. Her research interests are in developing and executing design interventions that responsibly fuel and sustain responsible design for social impact. Her work has been integrated into academic, industry, and community settings. The developed frameworks and tools are meant to create a space for conversation and knowledge exchange where participants can actively collaborate in the creation of new ideas and solutions. This type of methodology is evident in all of her major projects, which are titled Racism Untaught and Operation Compass. 

Racism Untaught, in which she co-coordinates a pedagogical framework focused on revealing and unlearning forms of racialized design, or design that perpetuates elements of racism, through a design research framework. Operation Compass, an ethnographic research study concerned with developing design-led interventions to combat the complex social issue of human trafficking.

Mercer has been published and invited as a keynote speaker internationally. She has also been featured on several media outlets, including the Dallas affiliate for NBC and the National Public Radio (NPR) shows Texas Standard, Illinois News Rooms, All Things Considered, and Sirius Radio She received her BFA in Visual Communications and Design from Purdue University and her MFA in Design Research from the University of North Texas.

Ilalee Harrison

Ilalee began her career in program development with the Office of the Mayor of Philadelphia working on what was then a groundbreaking public health initiative bringing together government, community-based organizations, academia, and the private sector. She went on to apply this approach with a number of programs and initiatives throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland within K-12 education, vocational education, and the social services sector.

In 2014, Ilalee joined Teach For America’s national staff in the Information Technology (IT) department. Today, Ilalee serves on the leadership team and is a lecturer for The Hoeft Technology and Management Program at the Gies College of Business and Grainger College of Engineering. She is also pursuing a master’s in business administration from Gies.

Ilalee continues her work with various community initiatives throughout the United States and Toronto, Canada.

Ajaita Saini

Ajaita Saini is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Computer Science + Statistics and is currently President of DFA UIUC. As a designer and technologist, she practices anti-racist and equity-based approaches to tackle complex social issues. She has worked on projects addressing food insecurity on college campuses and assisting senior citizens with chronic conditions using augmented reality concepts to make healthcare more accessible. Ajaita is also a recent global winner of the Map the System competition for her team’s work in exploring menstrual inequity in the US. She focuses on human-centered perspectives in a technological world and is constantly thinking about the humans we design for and working on responsible and ethical innovations.

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