Ulink: Connect U of T Students with Empathetic Alumni Mentors

My Roles

As the design studio lead, besides conducting user interviews, ideation, usability testing and translating big ideas into wireframes and prototypes with my teammates, I was taking responsibilities for most of the prototype design.

Samantha Yin/Fayelene Pinch/Jessica Wang/Weirong Li
October - December 2022 (12 Weeks)
Figma/Miro/Google Suite/Canva
U of T Student Life Innovation Hub
Design Process

Within this project, we utilized Design Thinking Process to innovate the mobile product. Our team spent plenty of effort conducting user research, analyzing the research data and figuring out what do the users really need and want. Our design was based on the big ideas we came up with. In the final presentation, we believe we made a compelling story and were lucky to receive much feedback from professors and professionals.


International students at the University of Toronto struggle to gain sufficient networking experience on campus, which hinders their ability to secure employment in Canada after graduation.


01 Have Empathetic Mentors

- Boost your response rate to 90%
- Connect with mentors who share your cultural background and industry interests
- Receive personalized one-on-one guidance from your mentor

02 Catch Regular Communication

- Stay connected with your mentor through consistent and frequent communication
- Schedule coffee chats at convenient times, aligning with your mentor's availability

03 Maintain Long-term Relationship

- Make the most of your coffee chats by preparing in advance with helpful prompts
- After each coffee chat, easily send follow-up messages using customizable templates
- Maintain a long-term relationship, fostering continuous growth and support


How Does International Students’ Professional Experience in Canada Look Like?

Based on longitudinal administrative data, there is a large gap in observed earnings between former international students and their Canadian-born counterparts, both in the initial years after immigration and in the long run. This gap is presenting in a range of labour-market outcomes, including employment rates, hourly earnings and education–occupation match.


We utilized questionnaires and interviews to investigate our questions.

Quantitative Data Results:

Direct quotes from interviewees:

“I know it is really important to network with people to secure myself a job, but it is so hard to find a person to network with.”

“I always wonder where I should start.”

"I don't feel positively supported by U of T's resources with my networking as an international student."

Finding a way to get started is always hard, and we want to help with that. Our initial focus will be on networking preparation, fostering relationships between international U of T alumni and international student communities, and helping students get the most quality information as they inquire about their professional fields of interest. 

Our project will address this gap by helping to prepare international students for networking, reducing the overwhelming nature of deciding who to reach out towards, and making international students' knowledge-seeking align with the jobs and people they are interested in.  We hope to help international students feel more prepared and secure when networking. 


Meet Xiaoming, the Software Engineering Student

After knowing Xiaoming, we compared his as-is scenario and to-be scenario of having a coffee chat to better find out his pain points.


Major Insights

Theme 1:Lack of Guidance

When there is no connection in a foreign country, international students are less aware of the importance of networking

Students do not feel actively supported by U of T's networking resources

Students need a way to positively receive networking guidance, so they can confidently approach prospective contacts

Theme 2:Unresponsive Industry Professionals

Students are getting a low response rate from people they have reached out to online, even in the alumni network

Students feel shy, anxious and fearful about approaching industry professionals which sidetracked their networking activities

They need to find a professional available to have a coffee chat, so they can initiate conversation

Theme 3:Fail to Maintain Relationship

Coffee chat without preparation leads to an awkward conversation and weak connection with the professional

Students find it is hard to maintain the relationship with professionals

They want an easy way to keep in touch with contacts they have connected


We used the affinity diagram to list all of our ideas and make dots on prioritization grids to decide on our final big ideas.

Now that we have a better understanding of the problem and Xiaoming's needs, it is time to generate "big ideas" to help Xiaoming out. Based on the feedback we got from the professor, we gave up some ideas with low feasibility. Out of more than 20 ideas, we converged on three:

Our design focused on three main stages: Creating a user profile for matchmaking, booking a coffee chat with the mentor, getting prepared for a coffee chat and sending out follow-up.
We had our Low-fi storyboard to begin:


Mixed-methods study
  • Think-aloud
  • Observation
  • Interview
Study details
  • In person or Remote (Zoom)
  • Time: 20 mins

1) User is confused by the word “Browse” and thinks it’s a clickable button.
2) Users wonder if they can browse other mentor types if they only selected one mentorship type in the onboarding screen.


1) Added a search bar beside the Browse. Added text “browse more mentors” on the search bar to indicate they can search for other types of mentors.


1) Participants wondered how they can cancel and reschedule meetings.


1) Added the “Modify” and “Cancel” buttons.


1) The follow-up might not be immediately after the meeting.
2) User should have the option to Cancel the reminder.
3) User wondered if the follow-up prompt is closed, and whether there is an option to view it again.


1) Added pop-up reminder for the follow-up after a certain time of the meeting.
2) Added the option to close/cancel the Follow-up reminder.
3) Added “Remind Me Later” button.


Creating A User Profile to Match A Mentor
Book A Coffee Chat with The Mentor And Get Prepared
Send Follow-up after The Call



All copyright reserved by Hazel He @ 2023