Online Resource for Building Intercultural Teams


Funded by the University of Michigan Office of Research ($15,000) matched by Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design ($15,000), ORBIT currently serves faculty seeking partners for project-based intercultural teaching or research collaborations. ORBIT is a webtool, accompanied by a book, which will enable university faculty worldwide to find collaborators for intercultural classroom experiences. The project’s goal is to spread and encourage intercultural collaborations in research and the classroom. This research has primarily focused on the development of the webtool by conducting interviews and receiving feedback to improve the original draft of the site map. New users must create a profile in order to join and participate in the platform. They may also post an “idea,” or collaboration opportunity. The platform uses a list of UN Sustainable Development Goals that faculty can select and add to their profile or idea. The system uses commonalities between individuals’ selections to suggest new collaborators or ideas to join. This online platform is currently in beta—an early version of the tool, and the first version that is available for people outside of our research team to use. The team is currently recruiting beta users to begin using the site. Early users will help us better understand how to improve the site and which phases to prioritize next. Because of its capability to help faculty form new collaborations, in future phases, this tool will have a global impact.

Team Members

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt: Project Lead of ORBIT and the Co-Author of Intercultural Collaboration by Design.

Kelly’s work and teaching integrate visual communication, interaction, user experience, and service design with behavior change and social engagement, drawing on her professional experience as a UX strategist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her research explores intersections of virtual and physical communities, and the development of methods and tools to promote effective long-distance intercultural collaboration.

Dr. Denielle Emans: Co-Author of Intercultural Collaboration by Design.

Denielle is enthusiastic about the power of design to change the way people see each other and the world. Her research bridges design-based methods with intercultural learning to bring about this change at the group and individual level. While teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she has developed courses in design for social innovation, sustainability, and activism to encourage students to engage with creative action through the various modes and mediums of visual communication.

Anusha BohraTeam Lead & Undergraduate Research Assistant

Anusha Bohra is a junior in the College of Engineering. She is interested in learning about the intersection of user experience and Front-End web development. From ORBIT, she hopes to gain experience learning about the UX field.

Flannery O’Donnell: Undergraduate Research Assistant

Flannery is a senior in the School of Information, studying UX Design. She is also pursuing the Ross Sales and Marketing Track as her sub-focus. Her passions include technology, design, mental health awareness, and human rights advocacy.

Abigail Ziemkowski:  Undergraduate Research Assistant

Abby is a recent graduate of STAMPS who is passionate about UX design and language learning exchange and the intersection of the two. She is interested in the ways that design can shape and improve our experience with the world.

Katie Huang: Undergraduate Research Assistant

Katie is a senior at Stamps working towards a BA. She is deeply curious about designing experiences that are informed by creativity, empathy, and storytelling.

Medha SripadaUndergraduate Research Assistant

Medha is a sophomore in LSA honors- prospective School of Information. She is an undergraduate research assistant on the Orbit project.

Mikayla Buford: Graduate Student Research Assistant

Mikayla is a first-year Master of Design in Integrative Design and she works on research pertaining to human-computer interaction and design.

Parker Mathena:  Undergraduate Research Assistant – UROP Student

Parker Mathena is from Southgate, Michigan. He intends to major in mechanical engineering and minor in entrepreneurship, but he is also interested in computer science. Parker loves to travel, play soccer, and read!


Genia Kapelonis: Undergraduate Research Assistant – UROP Student

Genia is a first year undergraduate student in University of Michigan’s College of Engineering. She is someone who has always been interested in technology and the infinite possibilities it has in helping people all around the world.

Ramez IbrahimUndergraduate Research Assistant – UROP Student

Ramez is pursuing Computer Science at the Univeristy of Michigan and some of his hobbies include biking, video games, and volleyball.

Many people have worked on the ORBIT webtool for various durations of time. While the current team members are introduced above, this map is also representative of the past team members who have worked hard to contrbute to where ORBIT is today.

User Experience Design Process


Participants from the study population of faculty and staff at the University of Michigan and Virginia Commonwealth University, Qatar completed a survey about their past intercultural experiences.


After filling out the survey, these same participants took part in an optional interview to elaborate on their intercultural experiences.


In the interviews, participants performed a card-sorting exercise, a UX/UI research method that helps identify and sort web-tool features that would be helpful for faculty and project leaders. First, the participants grouped possible site features (written on cards) into categories. Next, they were given the opportunity to write additional cards to identify any needs or features of the web-tool that should be addressed within a certain category.


Some examples of the team’s prototyped screens are shown below:


The prototyped screens were all printed and laid out in a certain order for the usability tests. Testers were asked to demonstrate their use of the website and ask any questions that arose as they went through the process.

Results of the Research and Testing of Prototypes

After compiling the qualitative data from the interviews, three main findings surfaced:

  • Theme 1: Starting an intercultural collaboration is mostly dependent on the willingness/enthusiasm of the initiator and their resources.
  • Theme 2: Tools used in intercultural collaboration are not centralized
  • Theme 3: Trust is a key component in intercultural collaborations. These are key factors that need to be accounted for in the sitemap and in the book.


A beta version of the ORBIT platform has been developed, and the current team members have tested that site with prospective users and iterated on that site a number of times already. The next steps include making design changes to further enhance the usability and visual appearance of the platform.